Press-Republican

January 10, 2013

Wellness Center pool temp change linked to safety

By JEFF MEYERS
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — The water in the Wellness Center at PARC swimming pool fluctuates between 82 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit as a safety measure for all pool users.

The temperature had been set at as high as 88 degrees, but officials feared that was much too warm and unsafe for people who use the pool for regular exercise programs.

“We did discover some months ago that the temperature the pool was being kept did not meet the guidelines established by several organizations for multi-use pools,” said Christine Meister, director of rehabilitation services for CVPH Medical Center.

“The water temperature has to be at a safe temperature for the various types of members who use the pool.”

FINDING A BALANCE

The American Red Cross suggests 78 degrees is an ideal pool temperature for competitive swimmers while 80 to 84 degrees is more appropriate for the average swimmer who is interested in completing laps for exercise and for other aerobic activities.

The Arthritis Foundation recommends water temperatures between 83 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit for aquatic therapy.

“We do recognize that some people are discontented (with the decision to change the pool temperature), but we chose 83 degrees because it is still in the range recommended by the Arthritis Foundation,” Meister said.

“With so many thousands of gallons of water, it is hard to keep the pool exact, but we are able to keep it within that range.”

Officials also cannot adjust the pool from morning to evening to meet the needs of different users, Meister added, noting that it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to raise and lower the temperature of such a large amount of water.

“The only way other centers can accommodate users (who require different pool temperatures) is by having mutual pools, each with their own specific temperature,” she said.

AQUATIC THERAPY ELSEWHERE

Officials feared the higher temperatures were creating an unhealthy environment for many users.

“You can develop problems with heat exhaustion (if the temperature is too high),” said Ted Santaniello, fitness manager at PARC. “It was also very difficult for our lifeguards to sit in there for extended periods. 

“It was like sitting in a sauna.”

The Wellness Center will soon be introducing several post-therapy programs for people who have completed rehabilitation programs following an injury or illness. The Wellness Center programs will help people continue using healthy activities in their lives beyond the supervised support they have just completed, officials said.

Some of the activities those people will perform include use of the pool, Santaniello said. The current water temperatures will offer them and other users safer opportunities for aquatic aerobics, he added.

Patients who are undergoing supervised aquatic therapy for rehab purposes are assigned to the CVPH Rehab Center on Tom Miller Road, which has a small therapeutic pool that does have a higher water temperature, Meister noted.

“Our primary concern (for PARC pool users) is safety,” she said. “We will not be changing the temperature.”

‘GAINING MEMBERS’

Some have suggested that as many as 100 people have left PARC to join other facilities in the community over the temperature issue; the Press-Republican has published numerous Letters to the Editor and Speakout submissions over the past several months, mostly saying the drop to around 83 degrees leaves the water was too cold.

But Meister said the center is gaining members, not losing them.

“Some people have come to us and thanked us (for lowering the pool temperature),” she said.

“It’s difficult to please everyone, but the pool can now be used safely by everyone.”

“We want the pool to be used for exercise,” Santaniello added. “Our main goal is to help members become more active and remain active to improve overall health.”

Both CVPH Medical Center and Power Wellness Management, the company that oversees day-to-day operations at PARC, agreed to the decision to keep the pool at the average 83 degrees.

Email Jeff Meyers: jmeyers@pressrepublican.com