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Leak puts off pool opening

May 28, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - As swimming pools go, this one has had its share of hard luck.

Built 61 years ago in the midst of the Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the big swimming pool in Caledonia State Park was replaced last year at a cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers of $1.5 million. The pool was closed for a year during the reconstruction.

Park manager R. Bruce McFate said the pool was scheduled to reopen last weekend for Memorial Day, but then he noticed May 12 that the water level was dropping. Park officials learned the next day that the culprit was the new main valve under the pool. It was buried under 13 feet of dirt, he said.

Repairs will be finished by this weekend, when the pool will reopen, he said. The equipment was under warranty, so there will be no cost to taxpayers, he said.

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The pool, which holds about 500,000 gallons, was leaking about 10,000 gallons a day, McFate said. Chlorine-laced water leaked into nearby Conococheague Creek and killed 36 trout, 185 minnows and 15 suckers, McFate said.

State officials termed the fish kill minor, he said. "It only covered about 300 yards downstream. A big fish kill would go for one or two miles," McFate said.

The fish stopped dying when the chlorine in the pool was neutralized with chemicals, McFate said. A lagoon was also dug to hold and filter the leaking water, he said.

Another major leak last year was behind the decision to replace the pool. The source of that leak couldn't be found.

"We didn't know if it was in the original piping, piping installed in a 1955 retrofit or piping from a 1968 retrofit," McFate said.

The state decided to replace the entire pool. Only the base was left following demolition. "We used it as a form for the new pool," McFate said.

The contract was awarded to a Dillsburg, Pa., construction company. Work began in June 1996 with a target completion date of December.

Then bad luck set in.

In September two major floods wiped out all of the work done on the pool, McFate said. In June more high water came, did more damage and caused further delays. "We had to give them an extension," McFate said.

The construction company was putting in the final touches and had not yet signed the pool over to the state when the recent leak was discovered, McFate said.

He said the contractor was not at fault. "There was nothing wrong with their work. The valve was faulty. They responded as quickly as anyone could expect."

Two lifeguards were busy vacuuming the pool Wednesday in time for the first crowd of the summer this weekend.

"It would have been too cold and too rainy over the Memorial Day weekend for anyone to use it anyway," McFate said.

The pool draws about 31,000 visitors a year and is the main attraction at the 1,130-acre state park 12 miles east of Chambersburg, Pa. on U.S. 30, McFate said.

Caledonia State Park is in the middle of 84,000-acre Michaux State Forest. Besides the pool, it offers fishing, golfing, camping, hiking and picnicking.

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