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February 17. 2013 6:38PM

Engineers Week: Water leak plugged at Portsmouth Indoor Pool

Save the Indoor Portsmouth Pool (SIPP), as well as many individuals and businesses, have been working with the City of Portsmouth to keep the pool which originally opened in 1980, open for the next generation.

SIPP has committed to raise a minimum of $750,000 for capital improvements and repairs over the five-year lease with the City of Portsmouth.

I'm proud to be a member of SIPP and several of us here at Petersen Engineering are regular users of the pool for fitness or our children's swim lessons.

As building engineers with a focus on energy efficiency and sustainability, we have been looking for opportunities at the pool to save electricity, gas and water with the dual purpose of increasing environmental sustainability and reducing operating costs.

Several projects have been completed to date with more on the horizon. One success thus far has been the plugging of the leaky gutter that surrounds the pool.

In the summer of 2011, working with pool director Lisa Arakelian, we determined that pool water was leaking from the perimeter gutter that encompasses the pool directly into the ground. Unfortunately, we did not have the time or resources to upgrade the gutter as part of the 2011 annual summer shutdown when the pool was drained for regular maintenance and cleaning.

We got our ducks in a row for the 2012 summer shutdown, however, and as luck would have it, it was just in time. The gutter leak spiked higher during May, June and July of 2012, setting off alarm bells at the water department.

Brock Enterprises, a commercial pool contractor from North Haven, Conn., was hired to complete the restoration work on the gutter.

Plugging gutters may sound like a mundane task, and it is. What is notable is that water use for the pool over the past couple of years has been the most costly utility for the operation of the facility.

This caught our attention since we went in expecting the water bills to be the least costly utility behind gas and electricity. Only when the pool was drained during the shutdown in August 2012 was the cause of the high water use made visibly obvious for the first time: A continuous horizontal crack that ran the entire perimeter of the 6-lane 25-meter pool was exposed for the first time when the old grating covering the continuous gutter was removed for replacement.

In July of 2012 the indoor pool used 864,750 gallons, most of it leaking through the apparently ever-expanding crack, with the remainder going toward the normal uses including showers, toilets, sinks, backwashing and evaporation.

Confirmation of how much water was leaking through the gutter as opposed to some other unknown possible leak would not be confirmed until the fall water bills arrived.

The news was good.

After the repair of the gutter, water use averaged 245,000 gallons per month for September through December 2012, down a whopping 70 percent monthly average from the July peak and down 35 percent from what it had been averaging the last couple of years.

This year, $30,000 in cost savings is expected from the gutter repair compared to last year.
James Petersen is president and founder of Petersen Engineering, a Portsmouth-based engineering firm.


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