Students at Highlands High School apparently won’t have use of the school’s swimming pool until at least November. That’s because it will take that long to repair damage caused by collapsed pipes and the area around the drains under the pool that drained it dry. “We had, in the very bottom of the pool, a drain collapse and all the water went out,” said Superintendent Michael Bjalobok.

“But we didn’t know where all the water went.”

Apparently, according to Bjalobok and Athletic Director Chuck Debor, all 165,000 gallons of water simply went into the ground.

They said engineers were called in to check on the high school foundation to make sure that it was not damaged or undermined by the pool water.

Bjalobok said they could find no further damage to the school.

According to Debor, estimates he received from companies that do this kind of pipe replacement and repairs for swimming pools ranged from $30,000 to $51,000.

Debor said the collapse occurred around mid-July, not too long after the third time Sylvan Pool had flooded because he said people from Sylvan were using the high school pool.

“A lady was swimming and asked me if I was back flushing the filters because the water level had dropped suddenly,” Debor said. “I went out and checked, and the water level had gone down by, like, a foot-and-a-half. I knew right away something wasn’t right.”

Debor said it took about 14 hours for the pool to drain.

From that point into September, Debor said school officials were focused on trying to determine why the pool drained and where the 165,000 gallons went.

First, school district buildings and grounds personnel checked out the area searching for the problem but could not find it, Debor said. He said inspectors were called in and they didn’t have any success either.

He said one of the water valves that had recently been repaired was removed and reexamined but was found to be working properly.

Finally, a leak detection company was brought in and used TV cameras to find that entire sections of the drain pipes under the pool had corroded away.

Debor said the pipes are original, installed when the pool was built in 1969 and were made of steel or cast iron. New piping that will be installed will be PVC plastic, which doesn’t corrode.

After determining what the problem was and that more damage had not been done, Debor said it took more time finding companies interested in doing the work and then getting them in to provide estimates.

“A lot of companies aren’t willing to take this on because there’s a lot of concrete to cut through,” Debor said.

He said the concrete in the pool’s bottom is 16 inches thick, which poses a challenge for anyone doing the repairs. He said bidding requirement and the actual repair work will take about nine weeks.

Business Manager Jon Rupert told the school board that awarding a contract likely won’t occur until Oct. 19 unless the board calls a special meeting before then.


Meanwhile, not having a pool will make it difficult for the Highlands swimming teams to start getting into shape for the season, which starts in November.

In addition to that, the district is in the process of getting applicants for the vacant swim coach position.

Debor said he will contact the Allegheny Valley YMCA about the Highlands swim team using its pool and has approached New Kensington-Arnold School District Athletic Director Muzzy Colosimo about using the pool at Valley High School.

According to Tribune-Review on September 15th