Special Reports

What is being done to keep spray park water clean?

Special Report- Spray Park Safety

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Council signed off on building eight spray parks around the city, one in each of the eight council districts.

All are now open and parents and kids we spoke with had nothing good things to say.

"I think this is a great idea. I know there are a lot of young kids who are appreciating this and parents, too!" said one parent.

A 7-year old told us, "you get wet. It's cool getting wet because it's Summer already and I like it."

When asked if the kids were enjoying themselves another parent added, "Yes. A little too much. It's going to be hard to get them home."

But while the reviews are positive we wanted to get a better understanding of what's being done to keep visitors safe at the new spray parks.

"It's the same as if you go swimming. if you drink the water in the swimming pool you are going to run the risk. it's the same thing here," said Fred Martinez, the El Paso Parks and Recreation  Department's Aquatics Maintenance Supervisor.

He explained how the filtration system is similar to a pool's.

"The water that comes off the spray pad, goes through the drain, and back to the tank and then is treated again before it goes back to the spray pad," said Martinez.

But Wright Stanton, Programs Manager for Aquatics, says there is one big difference between the spray pad and your neighborhood pool.

"We do have some built in features in our spray parks like the UV which protects them from water borne illnesses like cryptosporidium and that kills 99% of it," said Stanton.

Cryptosporidium causes infectious diarrhea and is resistant to chlorine.

That's why babies should only wear swim diapers and parents should keep an eye on bathroom breaks.

Martinez showed us the ultraviolet system.

"That's basically ultraviolet bulbs and the water passes through that light and it kills all the bacteria that passes through," said Martinez.

So, the goal is to keep the bacteria out while also keeping the water in.

"If the wind goes over say 20 miles per hour the system will automatically shut down so a lot of the water won't blow off the spray park," says Stanton.

Maintenance workers can also adjust each individual water feature to release more or less water.

"One of the reasons we went to these is the cost and everything associated with the swimming pools. You're talking about a city pool with hundreds of thousands of gallons. We're down to 2,000 gallons here and providing just as much entertainment."

The parks are open daily from 10 in the morning to 10 at night. During those hours visitors will have to hit the activator near the entrance to the spray park every 4 minutes to keep the system on and save money, but if you visit after hours the activator won't work, you'll be trespassing and security cameras will let you know.

"It actually activates and it will take a photo of the person who is here on site and also let them know that they are trespassing," says Stanton.

Early on some of the spray parks were forced to shutdown because the filters were clogging, but Martinez says that problem was remedied by having maintenance workers visit the parks more often.

"We do have some strainers within the plumbing lines to catch grass, debris, plastic, all that kind of stuff so it doesn't end up in the tank so the couple of shutdowns that we've had have been because those strainer baskets got full and wasn't allowed to flow properly," said Martinez.

Because of their newness the city couldn't tell us how much they are spending on maintenance and the average number of visitors.

But, we were told those are two things they plan to track.

Each park cost on average $800,000.

Three of the spray parks are funded with Community Development Block Grants, two with quality of life bonds and the other three with general fund savings.

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