Pool polluted with hair clumps, snotballs and old sticking plasters

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You’ve been swimming with foreign matter.

Foreign matter has been fouling a pool at the new $20 million Alpine Aqualand.

A group of angry Queenstown mums and a children’s nanny who meet there several times a week tell Mountain Scene they’ve been complaining about “filthy” water conditions in the centre’s lap pool since last September.

They allege:

  • It’s been polluted with clumps of hair, “snotballs”, old sticking plasters and grit.
  • They’ve had to revert to doing backstroke because they couldn’t bear to put their faces in the “revolting” water.
  • Specially-marked hair ties they dropped in the pool to test if it had been cleaned were sometimes still there a week later.
  • They got so frustrated they bombarded Alpine Aqualand’s suggestion box with messages such as “I like my soup thick and chunky – not my pool”.

Mother-of-three Anna Davy from Lake Hayes Estate uses the lap pool several times a week and two of her kids take swimming lessons in it.

She blasts: “The water has often been filthy and has had all sorts of unimaginable things floating around in it.

“We have waited a long time for this facility and it’s a pity our enjoyment has been spoiled for so long by it not being properly cleaned.”

Fiona McKissock, boss of Lakes Leisure, the council quango running Alpine Aqualand, accepts the angry users have “had a valid point”.

The unwelcome floaters have been “certainly unsightly”, she admits.

However, McKissock insists cleaning problems have finally been ironed out – seven months after the pool first opened to the public.

“We had been using a second-hand [cleaning] unit that we’d taken from Arrowtown pool and it was proving unreliable,” says McKissock. “But I stress that at no time has there been a hygiene risk and the water is tested on a regular basis.

“We’ve acquired a new automated unit that arrived in the last week and is now being used every night, so people should see a distinct improvement.”

Regular pool user Sarah Munro of Arrowtown says the gunk got so bad she even bought darkened goggles so she couldn’t see some of the flotsam she was swimming with.

“The water would get progressively dirtier towards the end of the week. My imagination was running riot.

“I’ve also not been happy about my two young kids getting their swimming lessons in the lap pool in case they swallowed any water.”

Local mum of two Alex Hide: “I even offered to come in at 5.30 in the morning and clean the pool myself for half an hour if I was paid, but no one took me up on it.”

Children’s nanny Hayley Wasson: “I can’t understand why Alpine Aqualand spent so much cash on artwork for the building and didn’t buy the basics like proper cleaning equipment.”

(In March 2007, Mountain Scene reported Queenstown Lakes District Council approving an artworks budget of $156,000.)

Sharon Burke, a Queenstown swim coach for more than 40 years: “I complained so often I think the pool staff cringed every time they saw me coming.”

Although a new electrically-operated “robotic” pool cleaner has now been bought for $7000, the problems didn’t end there for under-pressure Alpine Aqualand bosses.

The equipment – which trawls up and down the bottom of the pool sucking up dirt – couldn’t be used when it first arrived last week.

The instruction manual was missing.

“Because of that it took us a couple of days to get our heads around getting it working,” says Alpine Aqualand boss Cam Sheppard.

Lake Leisure’s flagship attraction has had a bumpy ride since opening last May.

Last month, it emerged that 69 people had been injured on its fast-speed hydroslide – and it was closing to redesign a problem corner.

The hydroslide hasn’t reopened since.

In November, the lap pool was shut for a week because of a bubble in the lining.

The same month, QLDC also approved a $625,000 cost blowout on the swim centre.

Last August, air temperatures dropped 6degC below normal after a copper heating coil froze. And back in June, the pool struggled to maintain its designed operating temperature – it was 2degC below the required standard.