Point State Park managers are trying to control algae and bacterial growth in fountain
August 9, 2013 4:00 AM
This water was collected Thursday by Post-Gazette reporter Jon Schmitz from the bowl of the fountain at Point State Park. It shows foam and sediment that has discolored the water.
Bob Jackson, left, and Steve Walter of Pennsylvania State Parks power wash the fountain at Point State Park on Thursday.
By Jon Schmitz Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Visitors to Point State Park have been known to beat the heat by taking a dip in the fountain. But wading into the water for part of this week would have produced more eews than ahhs.
Water in the pool at the base of the fountain was a foul brown color, capped with patches of mud-colored foam. The inner rim of the fountain enclosure was stained brown.
A sample retrieved from the fountain was filled with sediment and stained anything that came in contact with it.
Terry Brady, deputy press secretary for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the discoloration was believed to result from algae and bacteria killed by the chemicals used to treat the fountain water. Copper sulfate and chlorine are added, and park officials constantly test the pH level to ensure the water has an acceptable level of acidity, he said.
He said because the fountain pool is shallow and exposed to lots of sunlight, it is susceptible to algae and bacterial growth.
Discoloration incidents like this week's are relatively common, he said, but park managers work diligently to keep the water clear.
"The whole intent is to keep it pristine," Mr. Brady said.
An architect who took a walk in the park this week said he was concerned that iron oxide, aka rust, might be leaching into the water from the stone enclosure. He said he once encountered a similar problem in a fountain project he worked on.
He said he feared that the rust in the water, if that's what it was, could damage the pumps and other equipment installed during an $11.6 million rehabilitation project that was recently completed.
State officials discounted that possibility, saying the building materials, concrete and granite, were not susceptible to that.
Mr. Brady said samples of the murky foam were taken from the fountain and would be dried and tested.
The fountain was restarted with much fanfare on June 7 after being off for more than four years during construction.
On Thursday morning, the fountain was turned off for several hours and crews pressure-washed the brown-stained rim of the enclosure. By afternoon, the fountain was back on, the icky foam had all but disappeared, and people were dangling their legs into the pool and wading in it.