Tens of thousands of gallons of swimming pool water careened down the inner campus road leading to the H Street exit recently, slicking sidewalks and splashing cars and pedestrians. Noone was injured, but many students and employees complained that the torrent was wasteful. It originated from the college’s pools, which are being emptied for demolition and the construction of the new math and science buildings this summer.
Michelle Valenzuela, 29, kinesiology, said the sight of the water bursting over hard concrete and running off was hard to watch.
“California is in a huge drought,” she said. “I’m from the (Central) Valley and they have no water. It kind of put a little knot in my stomach.”
Dean of Athletics Jim Spillers said there was a significant current of water.
“It looked like a small river running down all the way to that catch basin in front of the library,” he said. “It was probably a six to eight foot band of water and it ran for a good half a day.”
Draining stopped around noon when Director of Facilities Charlotte Zolezzi became aware of the situation.
“The past practice in this district, when the pool needed to be drained, was to do it in this method,” she said. “It’s not the correct method so when I saw it the other day I had it stopped to see what was going on.”
Zolezzi said the correct method is to pipe the water into the sewer where it can be treated or, if the water has an even pH balance, it can be laid over a large landscaping area to soak into the earth.
Zolezzi said EPA regulations make repurposing water on campus arduous.
“Now with the drought, they are a lot more flexible and they are repurposing rainwater runoff,” she said. “The process is a little easier, but still a process. For this one, being a pool, I don’t think we would have ever gotten a permit to repurpose it.”
SWC’s pools, which hold 660,000 gallons of water, have been effervescing for several weeks to allow some of the chlorine to evaporate from the water, but Spillers said SWC lacked a location to store or disperse it. Roughly one-third of the pool water will be saved to be utilized in the demolition process to control the dust, he said.
“I think it would be so cool to conceptually figure out what you would need to pull that off,” he said.
Valenzuela said the school should look into more sustainable practices for water conservation, especially given the pro-environment message the college touts.
“Maybe pools should start going saltwater,” she said. “I’m spending money out of my own pocket to pay for school, so to treat the campus like this is not cool. We need to get on the trend of taking care of our planet, but we need to take care of what’s at our back door before we conquer the world.”
A health and wellness center under construction is geared toward conserving water and using green energy, said Spillers. So far, he said, it has met standards set by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for the construction industry.
“We have not been awarded yet,” he said, “but we are on pace to be awarded the LEED gold standard, which is the highest of their standards in this green technology and green construction.”