Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 3, 2013

Electrocution was chief concern with splash pad


Nicole Miller of Buckley said she believes splash pad contamination began before June 29. Her eight-year-old son became violently ill after he played in the splash pad for about three hours on June 27, she said.

She reported his illness to the health department on June 28 and officials tested splash pad water late that afternoon and found it pathogen-free. But documents show health department officials also tested the water on June 27 and discovered it lacked enough chlorine to serve as a disinfectant.

The city opened the splash pad without anyone trained in pool operation. Tom Buss, the county's director of environmental health, said county officials had instructed city employees on how to properly maintain the splash pad water's chlorine and pH levels.

Buss said there is no way to know for sure now, but the water on June 27 could have contained pathogens because the water lacked adequate chlorine levels.

Reopening plans thwarted

Some city officials wanted to reopen the splash pad on July 1, the day after sewage spewed from it, according to DEQ documents.

"I was shocked," Buss said. "We didn't want that."

County health department officials responded with a memo to the DEQ that included a long list of suggested requirements to reopen the splash pad.

The intent was clear: any negative ramifications would fall squarely on the DEQ if the splash pad was reopened without a final permit.

"We couldn't tell them what to do ... but we didn't want it reopened," Buss said.

The DEQ issued a final response later that day. The splash pad would have to go through the regular permitting process. No temporary fixes.

It would take city officials almost two months to gain all required permits. Today, still more work remains to be done.

Soyring said city officials realized they needed outside expert advice as they toiled to to assign splash pad problem costs and responsibility. They are waiting on a cost proposal from Vortex Aquatic Structures International Inc. to recommend solutions and help assign responsibility for the solutions.

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