Mysterious leak keeps Charlottetown pool closed

The Bell Aliant Centre competitive pool was supposed to open in early September but it's leaking. Swimmers are hopeful they'll get back soon.

'It's very disappointing'

The 1.6 million litre pool has been drained twice in 2020: once for maintenance during the unscheduled COVID-19 closure, and now to find the source of a large leak. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Swimmers keen to get back in the water at Charlottetown's Bell Aliant Centre are going to have to wait before they can dive back in. 

The aquatics facility closed in March due to the pandemic and both pools were emptied for deep cleaning and painting.

They were then refilled last month in anticipation of reopening after Labour Day, but staff noticed the water level was dropping on the larger competitive pool.

Four weeks later and officials still have not been able to find the source of the leak. 

General manager Sue Fraser says they've taped off areas of the pool that they know are problematic. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"The diagnostics started immediately on trying to figure out where the source of the leak would be, and we're still in the process of dealing with that now," said Sue Fraser, general manager of the Bell Aliant Centre.

"We could find it tomorrow, but there's really no way of knowing that right now."

It's just a really, really slow process.— Dave Tompkins, facility services manager

The pool, which holds 1.6 million litres of water, has been drained for the second time this year. Fraser said they've brought in a number of professionals to check all the plumbing and supply lines connected to it. 

"We never would have thought getting it up and ready and getting us back to the new normal would have been so cumbersome," said facility services manager Dave Tompkins.

"It's just a really, really slow process."

'Very disappointing'

There are two pools at the centre. The more shallow of the pools is OK, but can't open because it's right beside the competitive pool with the leak. 

Fraser said the team working on the fix should be able to eliminate any kind of plumbing issues by the end of the day Wednesday. After that, the next step would to be look for structural problems.

'It's a problem in our pool, in our structure, and we have to find it,' says Fraser. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"We have never had to experience anything like this, and I don't know of any other facility that we could call on that has had this kind of problem," she said. 

"It's a problem in our pool, in our structure, and we have to find it."

Fraser knows people are missing the various aquatic programs that have been stopped since March. 

"It's very disappointing and it's not just so much the challenges associated with aging infrastructure, it's the challenges of not being able to deliver a really important service to the community," she said.

'It's really painful'

"It's business as usual pretty much in the arena environment, and we were really hoping that by now it would be the same case with the aquatics."

The centre offers swimming lessons, Aquafit programs and is also the home of the Bluephins competitive swimmers.

"Normally we would be in the water nine to 10 times a week, about 24 hours," said Bluephins head coach Tom Ponting.

"You can imagine when you're doing zero, that's a big jump, so it's really painful to not have any facility at all."

Fraser said they don't know when the pools will be able to reopen.

"The last thing we want to do is create unrealistic expectations for people."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Laura Meader


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