Improving air quality in the pool area at the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter could cost a minimum of $20,000, and perhaps considerably more, Juan Castro, the facility’s executive director, told the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday.
The town owns the building and has contracted with the Y.M.C.A. to run the center. The agreement calls for a $590,000 annual contribution from the town to the Y’s $2.2 million budget, and makes the town responsible for capital repairs to the building.
Heavy use of the two pools at the center, especially in winter when outer doors remain closed, decreasing ventilation, has created a buildup of chloramine gas, which is created when ammonia from perspiration binds with the chlorine in the pool.
County health officials, who have tested the water but not the air, have declared there is no public health hazard, but swimmers have reported experiencing symptoms such as rashes and respiratory issues.
Mr. Castro told the town board on Tuesday that the Y strives to “fill our facility; maximize its use. That’s how we pay our bills,” he said. However, he acknowledged, the heavy use does create other issues, such as the air quality problem.
Between 3:30 and 6 p.m. daily, 80 to 90 people are generally swimming in the two pools, with more people in the pool area on the sidelines, he said.
Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson asked if the pool has a maximum-occupancy. “We’re pretty close to capacity,” Mr. Castro said. “We’re not at capacity.”
“But it’s not just capacity; it’s activity,” he said. People in the pool excrete ammonia as they exercise, he said, and it is the chloramine gas formed when the ammonia interacts with chlorine in the pool that causes the air quality problem.
In addition to the need to upgrade the pool systems, “It’s a people problem,” Mr. Castro said. If, for instance, he said, members of the high school swim team who work out before heading into the pool, fail to shower first, the problem is compounded. “So we have to have, now, a shower patrol,” Mr. Castro said.
The $19,700 worth of upgrades would include replacing a pump motor and impeller, hair and sand trap filters, and upgrading pipes, as well as installing two computerized chlorination systems and carbon dioxide distributors — “everything brought up to today’s standards,” Mr. Castro said.
Those steps are expected to improve the air quality in the pool area, though maybe not enough, he said. Changes to the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system may also be needed to “evacuate the bad air at times of high use.” Air quality tests will be conducted, and an engineer will evaluate the situation, he said.
In addition to the work needed to improve the air quality, Mr. Castro said other capital improvements will be needed in the near future: resurfacing or painting the pool, and replacement of a Desert Air dehumidification system. A long-range capital improvement plan submitted by the Y to the town last year for consideration also includes the construction of four new classrooms.