Not so long ago, Charity Bechtel loved swimming five days a week at the Piedmont Community Pool. More recently, though, seeing water in the pool — closed since March 2020, a victim of both COVID-19 and its own slow physical deterioration — has been a bummer.
As someone who collects shower water at home to use to hydrate the lawn, Bechtel said it seemed like a waste to have the pool filled, especially knowing the pool leaks thousands of gallons a day.
“I take my kids to school there five days a week, and I see the pool … it’s frustrating,” the Piedmont resident said.
But she was heartened this week to learn the pool has now been drained, after the city received permission from the Alameda County Department of Public Health to do so ahead of demolition work to make way for a new Piedmont Aquatics Center on the same parcel. City officials hope construction can begin in Spring 2023.
City officials also were glad for the pool to be drained in light of the “exceptional” drought through which the Bay Area and most of California are suffering. The pool was drained over Tuesday and Wednesday, its water being directed into the sanitary sewer system.
“The pool was still leaking between 3,000 and 3,700 gallons a day, and we had to continually refill the pool to keep the pumps running and the water treated,” said Chelle Putzer, Piedmont’s recreation director, happy to see the pool drained. She did not have an estimate of how much that water leakage cost the city per day or per week.
Alameda County wanted to make sure Piedmont had the pool area fully secured before signing off on the draining, Putzer said.
“The county is concerned about safety whether the pool has water or not,” Putzer said. Either way, she added, the pool area needs to be secured and locked to prevent the public from entering and falling into the water or — as is now the case — the empty pool. County public health officials also didn’t want the pool to become a mosquito breeding ground.
Several messages left with the county Department of Public Health seeking comment went unreturned.
Mayor Teddy Gray King said the approval process was slow going, but countered that “It’s not as easy as putting a hose out to the gutter.”
Clearing the way for phase 2 of the pool project
The next phase of the pool project — selecting an architect — can begin. King said she expects the City Council to meet Monday, Sept. 27 to interview prospective pool project architects.
“It’s such a big project, and you have to make sure you really get it right,” King said.
The new pool was made possible when, in November 2020, Piedmont voters approved Measure UU, allowing the city up to $19.5 million in general obligation bonds to finance construction of a new city swimming pool. The City Council in August formally authorized borrowing up to that amount via such bonds. City leaders hope the new Piedmont Community Pool will open by mid-2024.
Bechtel, like city leaders, is in full support of an empty pool.
“I’m glad it was finally drained,” she said.
Contact Sam Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org