After $34M Renovation, Gov’t Pays $100K to ‘Squeegee the Stuff Out’ of Reflecting Pool

October 5, 2012 - 8:42 AM

reflecting pool

A little over a month after the National Park Service completed a $34-million, two-year re-lining and renovation of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall, the work has resumed – a $100,000 effort to “squeegee” the slimy green algae out of the water. (CNSNews/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – A little over a month after the National Park Service completed a $34-million, two-year re-lining and renovation of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall, the work has resumed – a $100,000 effort to “squeegee” the slimy green algae out of the water.

“We had to do a contract for $100,000 to bring in people to squeegee the stuff out, plus we have Park Service people out there -- I really couldn’t quantify that for you,” Carol Johnson, a National Park Service spokeswoman, told CNSNews.com.

The algae bloom—first reported by the Washington Post— appeared shortly after the Reflecting Pool re-opened on August 31.

“[E]essentially, one of the things I’ve been telling people is, we’re going to have to drain the pool once a year anyway, always, because you get goose poop and you get all kinds of stuff in there. So you’re going to have to empty it. Basically, this is a maintenance thing, and yeah, we’re doing it way sooner than we expected to do it.”

Johnson attributed the algae buildup to “human error,” emphasizing that it is a “maintenance issue” and not a reflection on the integrity of the restoration project.

“The main thing is that it’s not a failure of the filter system, it’s not a failure of the construction. If I were to describe as anything, I’d describe it as almost a human error because we had to figure out the (ozone) calibration.”

She indicated that project engineers initially did not put enough ozone in the water to adequately kill off the nutrients on which the algae feeds. They are now removing all of the algae: “If you can imagine a giant bathtub, they’re scrubbing it and getting all the algae cells off,” Johnson said. “Things look like they’re going well,” she added.

reflecting pool

The algae bloomin the Reflecting Pool appeared shortly after the Reflecting Pool re-opened on August 31, 2012. (CNSNews/Penny Starr)

The National Park Service expects the water in the Reflecting Pool to be clear in less than two weeks, at which point project engineers will more than double the level of ozone in the water, which – based on recent experimentation – “seems to be the level it needs to be to take care of the nutrients.”

The new pool is filled with re-circulated, non-potable water that is filtered and pumped in from the nearby Tidal Basin.

In an official statement to CNSNews.com, the National Park Service concluded that draining the pool, cleaning it and refilling it once more was the best course of action to eliminate the algae.

“The National Park Service (NPS) has begun draining the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to remove the algae bloom that occurred during the calibration of the pool’s new circulation, filtration, and treatment system,” Bob Vogel, Superintendent, National Mall and Memorial Parks, said in a statement to CNSNews.com.

“We have consulted with aquatic biologists and other water resource management experts who recommended draining and cleaning the pool as the most efficient and effective way to remove the algae, a process that is expected to take two weeks and could limit public access.  Every effort will be made to carry out this procedure as quickly as possible as we attempt to minimize its impacts on our visitors.

“When the Reflecting Pool is refilled, project engineers believe that the adjustments made to the filtration system will effectively neutralize the natural nutrients that fed the growth of algae in the water pumped in from the Tidal Basin,” he said.

As CNSNews.com previously reported, the Reflecting Pool restoration project was an Obama stimulus project, paid for with taxpayer dollars.