After a Feb. 7 legislative public hearing, Hagåtña and Dededo pools' stakeholders hoped that recurrent maintenance problems and closures would be addressed, and resolved.
Two weeks later, after the 2-hour, 40-minute hearing, both pools remain closed.
With the Hagåtña pool closed since Jan. 18 due to an inoperable filtration system and other issues, the Department of Parks and Recreation Director Richard Ybanez recommended stakeholders, including Guam Swimming Federation, use the Dededo pool.
Guam Environmental Protection Agency had determined the Hagåtña pool was improperly chlorinated and contained fecal bacteria.
Stakeholders quickly found that the Dededo pool was unfit for swimming, and it was closed Jan. 31 by the Department of Public Health and Social Services, Division of Environmental Health.
“The pool water was found to be murky and greenish in color,” according to a report completed by DPHSS.
After a two-week closure, on Feb. 14, the Dededo pool reopened.
One week later, the pool is showing signs of improper maintenance and neglect.
“At this point, it’s pretty sad because I feel like our government’s really failing our pool patrons, the folks who really rely on DPR, put their trust in DPR to make sure these facilities are clean and safe for our kids,” said Sen. Rebine Biscoe Lee in the oversight hearing.
Frank Flores, a Manhoben Swim Team coach, said his team practiced in the Dededo pool on Tuesday and Thursday, and the conditions were less than ideal and resulted in injury.
“We practiced in the water on Tuesday, and we already noticed that the water was getting cloudy,” Flores said. “One of my swimmers, when he was swimming backstroke, because it was cloudy in the deep end, bumped his head into the wall.”
Flores said the pool was murky and unsafe.
“He couldn’t see,” added Flores, recalling the conditions of the pool when the accident happened.
Two days later, again, Flores attempted to train at the northern facility.
“On Thursday, we went back to train with one of the Manhoben Swim Team groups, and the deep end was green, and it was cloudy,” Flores said. “So, I asked the lifeguard for the pool chemical readings for the day, and he said, ‘he didn’t have them from the contractor.’ ”
The water wasn’t circulating, Flores recalled.
“I decided to not allow the young swimmers to swim that day,” he added.
The government signed a contract in May 2018 for $660,000 with Canton Construction to provide “comprehensive facilities operation and maintenance services for Department of Parks and Recreation pools,” according to the government’s invitation to bid.
The services included the operation and maintenance of all pools, pool pumps, filters, and other mechanical equipment required to maintain safe water quality and operational standards.
The contract, following DPHSS and manufacturer standards, requires the vendor to complete daily documented safety checks of the pools' mechanical, electrical, and filtration systems.
The contract expires in May 2020.
During the oversight hearing, chaired by Sen. Kelly Marsh Taitano, Lee voiced her displeasure toward Ybanez and the way the pools are being maintained.
If the pools are not properly maintained, she would hold the director responsible, she said.
“We need to have new standards going forward, Lee said. “Madam Chair, it’s my hope that today this committee can establish how DPR will be judged (and) how our contractor will be judged.
“DPR will be held accountable for these standards and, if the department fails to meet these standards, I will call for your resignation, Mr. Director.”
Flores said he wants a competent director and contractor.
“Both are failing,” he said. “The contractor’s not qualified, and DPR is not holding the contractor to the letter of the contract.
With a penalty clause in place, due to contractor negligence, the contract stipulates that the vendor shall pay the government $200 per day for pool closures.
“The whole contact is questionable, and whether it’s valid, especially if there’s an option clause, the whole validity of this thing is in question,” Ching said.
“Fire the director,” he said.