Keeping Hot Springs Pool running can be draining
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” As the snow fell lightly Wednesday morning, dense steam rose from the depths of the partly drained Hot Springs Pool. The steam was thick, blending with the gray sky as it rose, making it impossible for the naked eye to see to the opposite end of the 405-foot-long attraction.
Crews were hard at work in the chilly morning hours, doing routine maintenance on the world-famous relaxation spot.
Pool manager Kevin Hatch arrived on the scene about 6 a.m. He’s familiar with the procedure because he’s worked at the pool for 11 years, the past eight as the manager.
“You get a whole new respect for the pool when it’s empty and you’re standing in it,” Hatch said. “That’s when you really notice how big the pool actually is.”
The therapy or “small” pool has a capacity of 91,000 gallons of pure spring water, while the larger main pool holds 1,071,000 gallons when it’s filled. The large pool is also more than a football field in length and is 100 feet wide at its widest point. That’s a lot of area for the maintenance crew to cover in a single day’s work.
“Mainly on these maintenance days, when the pool is closed, we do all the things we can’t do when there’s water in the pool,” Hatch said.
One job is changing lights beneath the water. It’s possible to do when the pool is filled but it’s a lot easier when it’s empty. The steps of the smaller pool and the shallow and deep ends of the larger pool also get a new coat of paint most maintenance days.
“Painting is the big thing on these days,” Hatch said. “We can only do it when it’s drained, but the weather may make it hard to do today.”
They have to allow the surface to dry before they repaint. That’s not something easily done during a winter storm that’s brought more than a few inches of snow to town in recent days. But if they don’t get to it this time around, it will get done the next time.
Throughout a calendar year the pool is emptied five times for a total of seven days. But the maintenance days are the only days during the year that the pool is shut down and completely drained.
It doesn’t take very long to empty the gargantuan pool.
“It takes about seven hours for it to drain,” Hatch said. “We had some valve issues this time, so it took a little longer.”
Maintenance crews will have a faulty valve fixed by the end of the day. That’s the point, to keep the pool running smoothly.
The crew cleans or “fire blasts” the entire surface of both pools with power washers and fire hoses, clearing any debris or algae that may have gathered since the last cleaning. Then they spray the surface with hydrochloric acid to eliminate the algae growth and mineral deposits.
“We may just settle for an acid bath today,” Hatch said.
These days aren’t spent cleaning the pool, so to speak. Hatch said that they focus on maintenance because the water is continually filtered and purified every 24 hours, with the entire 1,071,000 gallons of water being recycled every six hours.
“The biggest misconception people have is that the pool is only cleaned when we do the maintenance,” Hatch said. “But we filter about 50 percent of the water and add about 50 percent fresh water continually.”
The fresh water keeps the pool clean and also helps cool the 122 degrees Fahrenheit natural spring water to 90 degrees.
Hatch also uses submersible, remote vacuums to clean the pool’s floor of debris continually. The vacuums picks up anything that may have been dropped or lost in the pool.
“We actually found a diamond that fell out of the setting once,” Hatch said.
“It doesn’t happen all the time, but if it’s something that’s lost in the middle of the pool, the vacuums will pick it up and we turn it in to lost-and-found.”
This morning, if the sun chases the darkness to the west, the pool will once again reflect the emerald hue and will again be open to the public. Another day down for the maintenance crew, and another one looming on the horizon.