Anger over pool closure

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
The Gratwick Aquatic and Fitness Centre switched to low season operating hours from Monday, April 28.
Camera IconThe Gratwick Aquatic and Fitness Centre switched to low season operating hours from Monday, April 28. Credit: Kelly Howlett

The Port Hedland community has called for transparency in the wake of a swimming pool in the mining town, which had been closed by maintenance setbacks and expensive budget blowouts.

Gratwick Aquatic Centre had been shut for almost two years after a string of issues, such as dodgy filters and exploding tanks.

Now questions are being asked as to why such an extended period was needed, the spiralling costs, health standards and whether the Town was proactive in ensuring the works were carried out in a timely manner.

Port Hedland Ratepayers Association president Arnold Carter said he found the situation deeply concerning for the outlook of leadership in the town.

“I find it incredible that the town, which has the highest export for iron ore in the world, cannot run a recreational swimming pool for the community,” he said.

The council initially allocated $800,000 for maintenance work, but the figure increased to $905,000 after a “catastrophic failure of the pressure filters”, which also increased the predicted completion time by 12-16 weeks.

The Town said the pressure filters had been bypassed several years previously by the council and as a result, When reconnected and tested, the vessels and tanks exploded.

Subsequent issues, including the wrong tiles being installed on the pool, and a health scare when a false positive reading for the potential fatal water-bourne bacteria Naegleria fowleri was taken on opening weekend, saw a further increase in cost and completion time.

“The initial budget allocation was $800,000, which blew out to $905,000 in February 2019,” Mr Carter said.

“That was before the wrong tiling was put on, meaning it needed to be redone, and before the Naegleria fowleri issue.”

Town of Port Hedland comm-issioner Fred Riebeling said it was imperative the Town ensured the new filtration system complied with WA Department of Health standards and stood the test of time, a process which could not be rushed.

“The new filters needed to be designed and manufactured to meet the unique specifications and requirements of the Gratwick Aquatic Centre, resulting in an extended installation completion time period,” he said.

“Progress updates were provided to the community on the progress of the Gratwick Aquatic Centre filtration upgrades via news releases and social media, with members of the public welcome to submit questions at Council Meetings.

“It was unfortunate a false positive reading for Naegleria Fowleri necessitated the facility’s closure in November 2019, however the facility is now back up and running for the community to enjoy.”

Mr Carter has asked for a breakdown of costs incurred during the saga, which the Town took on notice, meaning a reply will be issued.

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