Suffern High School Pool Could Open Within Days–High Phosphate Levels to Blame

Posted by  Richard Gandon   in  ,      5 months ago     5083 Views     Leave your thoughts  

SUEZ-Supplied Water Suspected as the Culprit

After a summer renovation of the Suffern High School pool resulted in green-tinged water keeping it closed and frustrating students and parents alike, the pool is on the verge of re-opening.

The pool at Suffern High School was built in 1972 and was last renovated in 2004 so clearly it was time for an update. The decision was made late in the spring, the project was put out to bid and work began over the summer. 

The project involved emptying the pool, preparing the surface, making cut-outs for the drainage system, the existing lanes and gutters were upgraded and the pool was then acid washed.  The surface was prepared with a bonding agent applied and finally a new diamond brite surface was installed.

After the renovations had been completed the pool was filled and initial testing was done, everything seemed fine although a few days later water clarity became an issue as a green tinge developed.

The district took action by contacting the Rockland County Department of Health and was constantly in touch with the company that did the renovation in order to rectify the issue. 

When testing pool water, most tests look at ph, alkalinity and chlorine levels.  Some tests also check for calcium hardness.

Appropriate steps were taken to monitor and adjust these levels and yet no combination was able to stabilize the situation. 

Suffern Central School District Superintendent Dr. Adams visited the SHS Pool almost daily and was updated on the conditions constantly as workers and vendors struggled to stabilize the readings.  

With the pool unusable, district employees sought pool time from other high schools and Rockland Community College.  Meanwhile parents and students grew concerned and frustrated as the girl’s swim season began to slip away. 

“You know if I was a millionaire I wouldn’t care. But my kid is being recruited by coaches for college” said District mom Lisa Wilson Berkowitz, “The less she swims the less her chances are.”

It wasn’t until after all other avenues had been thoroughly explored and acted upon by the District that one of the Pool maintenance companies the SCSD reached out to suggested they try something else.  The district began to test for other compounds in the pool water and it was then that they learned that the primary culprit was elevated phosphate levels. 

Phosphates are a common compound, are generally considered safe and are in fact sometimes added to public water supplies to reduce pipe corrosion. However high concentrations can result in algae blooms or green water.  

The phosphate levels in the Suffern High School pool came in at approximately 10-11 times acceptable levels.  At the direction of the pool company, district employees drained then added 800 gallons of water to the pool each day in an attempt to rectify the issue as quickly as possible only to see the phosphate levels rise even further! 

After a few days of increasing phosphate levels, the district called in an outside lab to test the water supply prior to it entering the pool and what they found was an alarming level approximately twice the level of phosphates currently in the pool and it has been reported that these levels may be as high as 20 times acceptable levels.  Our understanding is that the water is supplied by Suez however we have not yet heard back as to why the phosphate levels suddenly spiked or if they were higher than normal prior to the pool renovations.   

Under the direction of the pool company, the District added a compound which initially made the pool water cloudy but has now reduced the phosphate levels to the point where the water is blue, almost clear and the other measures are within acceptable ranges. 

According to the District, the pool could be ready any day.


Richard Gandon is the Owner and Publisher of hyper-local community news websites. With a background in financial services, sales and training, he bring a unique perspective to journalism. He hosts a bi-monthly radio show and is a professional photographer.