People At Work: From Chemicals and Gauges to Watching over Children in Alexandria

People At Work: From Chemicals and Gauges to Watching over Children in Alexandria

Alisha Saine, pool manager at Charles Houston Memorial Pool.

Alisha Saine, pool manager at Charles Houston Memorial Pool. Photo by Shirley Ruhe.


Pump room gauge at Charles Houston.

Alisha Saine walks into the pump room. She raises her voice: "It is noisy in here." The walls are lined with pipes and gauges with bags of chemicals interspersed with buckets and oxygen tanks on the floor.

Saine is the pool manager at Charles Houston Memorial Pool on Wythe Street, and she handles pool operations. Every two hours she monitors the water for pH and chlorine levels. "If the pH is high, I add muriatic acid to lower it. If it is too low, I add soda ash." She pulls out a large gray plastic cup. "I add up to the 6 level." She says she waits until the required hourly 15-minute break to add any necessary chemicals and then double checks before she lets the children back in to swim.

She peers over the rail. "Down there are the pumps and inside are the filters. She picks up a messy filter. "These have to be clean. I brush them every two weeks." Behind the filter the oxygen gauge is attached to the wall. "When the little yellow ball is floating, that is good."

Saine records the measurements in the Pool Water Chemistry notebook every two hours. In addition to the chlorine and pH levels, she records the air and pool temperatures, the backwash and the influent and effluent. If these levels are off, she will backwash for five minutes. "Right now everything is smooth. There are no biohazards."

It is a sunny day with children's shrieks relaying a good time. The pool is full with a capacity of 45. When someone else arrives, they have to wait until a place opens up. "It is a small pool." On one end is 1-foot water for the toddlers with a water spray splashing into the air. Across the float division is three feet, "and just in front of us is the deep end."

In addition to assuring the hygiene of the pool, the job of supervision includes ensuring the safety of everyone. "For instance, if kids are running or not following the rules. There have been no accidents or injuries this summer. That is good."

Her normal day starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m. On weekends Saine teaches swimming lessons to 5-6 year-old children. "Some are brand new; some are returning. Some are scared of the water. That's normal." In addition to her daylong class in post op, she had some instruction on how to teach children. "What to do if they are crying. You don't want to force them so you ease them in with a friendly face." She says she throws in rings or plays games to help them to adjust. "I am very patient."

Saine started at Charles Houston this year, but had worked for the City of Alexandria as a lifeguard at Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility for the previous two years. Saine says this was just a natural job for her. She was on her middle school swim team in Charlotte, North Carolina and she already knew how to swim. "I just had to learn how to save kid's lives."