Facility fails to meet standards
By Scott Bellile
New London Aquatic and Fitness Center is in need of electrical upgrades and improvements to its air quality, an energy efficiency study concluded.
“There’s been a lot of concerns about the air quality in that facility,” said Trenton Smith, account executive for McKinstry, “and so we wanted to evaluate what that was and what was going on there.”
A team of professionals at McKinstry carried out the study this year and offered options for solving those problems at the July 5 Parks and Recreation Committee meeting. The city could do as much or as little of the recommended work as desired, or nothing at all.
The pool relies on primarily the same equipment as when it opened in 1980. A facility-wide upgrade could introduce a web-based control system that would computerize equipment like boilers and air handling units. The equipment in turn would exchange data and notify staff when problems occur.
The Parks and Recreation Committee didn’t approve or schedule any improvements. They will be considered when the city plans its next budget.
Brent Schmidt, program manager for McKinstry, said fixing the electrical problems would be top priority. Electrical equipment has been removed from the building over the years, so now abandoned wires throughout pose a risk to staff.
“There are some pretty major electrical concerns at this space, from concerns of being shocked if you touch an electrical panel to not knowing which panels are live or dead up in the upstairs mechanical room,” Schmidt said. “It’s a serious concern for the electrical safety. I was not touching any panels when I was there to be honest with you.”
A lesser problem that Schmidt said could also be improved is the indoor lighting. He recommended retrofitting the fluorescent light fixtures with LED tube lamps. The upgraded lights would automatically turn off when enough sunlight shines through the building’s skylights, whereas now the lights are left on much of the day.
Fixing the electrical hazards and upgrading the overhead lighting would cost $19,000 per project. If both projects were completed, the city could save about $3,000 a year between operational and utility savings.
McKinstry found there isn’t enough ventilation happening inside with the air handling unit.
“It appears that roughly 10 percent of the air going back into the pool room is fresh air,” Schmidt said. “The rest of it is just recirculated through the air handling unit, which you should be closer to 30, 35, 40 percent outdoor air. You’re just basically bringing the pool air back in.”
“Is there a health code requirement for air exchanges?” Parks and Recreation Committee member Rob Way asked.
“There are code requirements for air exchanges and you currently are not meeting those requirements,” Schmidt replied.
Laura Gorges, aquatic manager at the pool, told the committee regarding air quality, “I can tell if it’s a good day or bad day just by the smell of it and having so many people in that small office and not having enough air going through it, too. If one of them gets sick, it’s like, ‘Leave!’”
The recommended work, if all were performed in this category, could range from $138,000 to $405,000 total, with annual savings as low as nothing and as high as $20,000.
“One of the boilers is completely out of commission,” Schmidt said. “The other boiler is, you know, 22 years old and starting to end its useful life. It still does operate and run well for the age, that it is, but if it goes down, the pool goes down. So you don’t have any heat in there, you don’t have any heat to heat the pool, you don’t have any heat to heat the air.”
Committee members were concerned about what if the boiler broke down in the middle of the winter.
The city could install backup pumps or two working boilers (one as backup) to solve the problem. The cost for the suggested solutions ranges from $38,000 to $277,000 total, with the annual savings just under $2,000.
Schmidt said the pool’s D.E. filter is not in serious need of updating, but there are sand filters available that would require less labor and use less energy.
As for pool treatment, he said the pool could reduce the amount of chemicals used to kill bacteria and germs by installing a UV light. UV light would more quickly kill Cryptosporidium, a germ found in feces that can cause illness to others if someone has an accident in the pool.
A third pool improvement the city could consider is an automatic pool cover. A pool cover would go on after hours and cut down on the overnight evaporation that wastes water, chemicals and heat.
These improvements would range from $102,000 to $387,000 depending on how many were implemented, with annual savings of $3,100 to $14,000.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity you guys have to do some really good work and upgrades, to get the quality of the air within the space at a point where it’s refreshing to be in there and it’s not a noticeable thing when you go into the pool,” Schmidt said. “But I think you guys are doing a really great job with the infrastructure that you have, but it’s about time where you should upgrade.”