Popularity a Problem for the RECenter

More or less everyone involved thinks something should be done to upgrade the filter equipment

   When it was first envisioned, the folks behind the East Hampton RECenter hardly could have expected how popular it would eventually become. Now operated by the Y.M.C.A., hundreds of people pass through its doors every day it is open, many of them headed for the center’s two swimming pools. The 300 or so swimmers there on a peak day, as estimated recently by the Y.M.C.A. director, apparently overtax the pools’ filtration and ventilation systems frequently, raising the likelihood of health risks for those who swim and work there.
    More or less everyone involved thinks something should be done to upgrade the filter equipment. The key questions are what a retrofit should include and who should pay for it.
    But there is more. Steve Kenney, who runs a well-respected Wainscott pool service company, and whom we know and trust, thinks the RECenter has been run in a negligent manner and that the air in the pool area presents a health risk for those who frequent it. Juan Castro, the facility’s director, has brushed off these claims, prematurely in our view.
    The Suffolk Health Department, which has found no major problems with the pools’ “water quality procedures,” according to Mr. Castro, has not tested the quality of the air. Mr. Kenney has said that chlorine in the pools, during periods of heavy use, can combine with body fluids from bathers to produce chloramines, which can cause eye and skin irritation and respiratory problems such as asthma. The federal Centers for Disease Control offers advice to the effect that indoor pools need at a minimum an “adequate” fresh-air exchange and good water quality.
    Some of the resistance to modernizing the pools’ systems comes from the ownership of the facility. While the Town of East Hampton owns the building, the underlying land is East Hampton Village’s. The Y.M.C.A. runs the center by arrangement with the town, and the East Hampton School District sends students there for practices and competitions.    
    At this point, there is no scientific evidence that the RECenter pools are harming patrons, but, anecdotally, there is ample reason for independent testing. Correcting the problems, if they are confirmed, could cost $100,000 or more. Under the terms of the agreement between the town and the Y.M.C.A., East Hampton taxpayers are ultimately responsible for big-ticket repairs and maintenance.
    Given the heavy use of the RECenter, the cost should be secondary to setting things right. All parties involved, the town, Y.M.C.A., and, yes, the school district, whose board brusquely dismissed getting involved at its last meeting, should cooperate to see that it is done promptly and to the highest standards.