BALLINA Riverside Swimming Pool will reopen under strict Covid-19 guidelines this Saturday, June 12.
Pool manager, Paddy Collins, has been given the green light to operate the outdoor heated swimming pool during June, July and August.
“It is great to get the pool open again, particularly to provide a place where it is very safe for young children to swim, said Mr Collins.
“There are a lot of tourists around in Ballina and Killaloe at the moment. Once people see the lifeguard flag flying high, they know we are open again.”
However, Mr Collins has also confirmed numbers will be limited per session to comply with HSE guidelines.
In line with Covid-19 guidelines, the two metre social distancing requirement will be strictly enforced.
There will also be restricted use of changing rooms and showers. All swimmers will have to sign a form on arrival providing contact tracing information on entry.
Like last season, three sessions will operate at weekends. The first session starts at 12 noon and finishes at 1.50pm. The second session runs from 2.10 to 4pm and the third session from 4.30 to 6.20pm.
Opening times change during the weekdays when the pool operates two sessions from 2 to 4pm and 4.30 to 6.30pm.
Patrons are advised to come ready to swim and have a quick wash instead of a lengthy shower before leaving.
A one-way system will operate once patrons enter the swimming pool area.
All lifeguards working in the pool have to have their certification revalidated because there were no water safety or lifeguard courses last year due to Covid-19.
They will have to complete Covid-19 training and strict water safety tests over a four-day period in Nenagh Swimming Pool to obtain their up to date lifeguard certification.
In total, Mr Collins has received 14 lifeguard applications to work in the pool this summer.
He has three experienced lifeguards from last year who have full certification.
All of the inside of the pool has been coated with special paint, which has been fully completed for the new season.
The pool was filled for use on Monday and Mr Collins has already completed a lot of cleaning and preparatory works before the HSE carries out a final test before opening.
The riverside facility was among thirteen pools in Tipperary to benefit in the second and final phase of the Covid-19 Swimming Pool Grant Scheme.
Ballina Pool received €2,065, which was part of the July Stimulus package that aims to support publicly accessible swimming pools respond to the challenges associated with maintaining pools and the effort to reopen and remain open, within Covid-19 safety protocols.
One of the attractions of the pool is the fact it is heated, which Mr Collins noted intrigued some visitors.
“The Australians who visit Ballina pool can’t get over the fact it is heated. The water in the Ballina pool is warmer than what they are used to in Australia because they have no heating in their outdoor pools.
“One woman skyped back live to Australia showing her friends the temperature in the pool.”
Last year, the HSA allowed Ballina pool to operate for a six-week period from mid July to the end of August and Mr Collins is fully aware that they will again be operating under strict Covid-19 guidelines after securing the green light to refill the outdoor leisure facility with treated water.
This included public health information and signs, sanitiser, restrictions on the number of people in the changing area and the continuous operation of a one-way system.
Previously, the pool operated from 2 to 6pm. However, this was changed to three separate sessions starting at 12 noon and finishing at 6.30pm.
All seats had to be positioned two metres apart. A full clean up and sanitisation had to be completed after each two-hour session before the next group were allowed to enter. A maximum of 38 people were permitted to be in the water at any particular time.
“Everything had to be cleaned down including toilets, chairs, hand rails and dressing rooms before the next session could start. Every 20 minutes we had to do check to ensure everything was clean and in order.
“There was a lot of extra work and duties for the lifeguards in particular. The lifeguards had to complete a special Covid-19 training programme before we opened on a Saturday at their own expense. They had to get fully trained on all the aspects of managing Covid-19.
“Extra stuff came into life-saving because lifeguards weren’t allowed to do mouth-to mouth. Special respirators had to brought in and the lifeguards had to be trained on how to use them.
“It involved a lot of extra work and a lot of paperwork. People don’t really see the amount of extra work that had to be completed.”
Mr Collins revealed he didn’t receive one complaint about how they applied the Covid-19 regulations because every lifeguard and pool user complied with the regulations.
“We were surprised with the numbers we got last year. We got great compliments from people about the way we were running the pool. People said they felt safe using the pool. People also rang Tipperary County Council and said the Ballina pool was very well run.”
by Dan Danaher