Three of five Washington public swimming pools that were scheduled to open yesterday for vacationing youngsters remained closed as dirty water pouring from long unused pipes mixed with debris that had collected at the bottom of the pools to make them unusable.
To compound the problem, the city's youth - most of whom are on Easter recess from school - were deprived of the use of the four indoor pools that normally would have been open for the day. But the Recreation Department ordered these indoor pools closed so their staffs could supervise activities at the outdoor facilities.
The two pools that did open finally were pronounced fit for use in mid-afternoon as the thermometer hit 90 degrees, but the water at these two pools - at Banneker Recreation Center and Barry Farms Community Center - still appeared dirty.
Mary McKee, a spokesman for the Recreation Department, said Dr. William H. Runsey, the director of the department and the man who issued the announcement that the pools would open yesterday, had not anticipated any problems in opening the pools.
"May 28 is our regular opening date," said McKee, "This was an emergency opening to accommodate the kids who are outside in this heat. McKee told a reporter that nobody had made plans to clear the pipes and that not enough time had been provided for cleaning.
"We're doing a rush job and we're doing the best we can," she added. McKee said that Rumsey hoped that all five outdoor pools would be open by 1 p.m. today.
At the pools around the city yesterday the "crowd" was limited largely to two or three Recreation Department employees watching filters labor to clean out the dirt.
"It would have been a simpler matter to just extend the hours of the indoor pools while they took three or four days to take care of preparing the outdoor pools," said Ronald Porter, assistant director of aquatics at Woodson High School.
Porter had to close the indoor pool at Woodson, which he said served 200 to 300 youths Tuesday, to prepare the outdoor pool at Randall Community Center at 1st and I Streets SW.
"People couldn't have swam today even if the water had been clean, anyway," said a recreation worker at another site. "The water is too cold. It hasn't had a chance to warm up."
The slightly turgid water at Banneker was extremely cold, but pool officials opened a shallow end for swimming.
Irving Richardson, manager of the pool, said the water was clean enough for swimming despite its unsavory color.
"The water is not dirty," he said. "That is its natural color. The reason you don't see that color in a glass of water is that there isn't the volume we have here. See, it looks worse in the middle," said Richardson as he pointed to the middle of the pool where the water is about 11 feet deep. Filtration eventually will clear away the coloration.
Richardson said Health Department regulations require only that the bottom of the pool be visible and that the acid and base factors (the chlorine and sodash) in the pool be properly balanced.
The blue stripes at the bottom of the pool were visible and Richardson said a chemical test of the pool's water gave satisfactory results.
Dr. Bailus Walker Jr., administrator of the Environmental Health Administration, said his inspectors found no health code violations at any of the city pools yesterday.
"The pools should be able to provide service without any major health problems when they open," Walker said.