MILTON-FREEWATER — City officials decided today to close the Joe Humbert Family Aquatic Center for the rest of the season. 

In a news release, City Manager Linda Hall said those choice was not easy to make, but “we are confident it is the only reasonable option.”

Employees with the public works department and the city pool have worked over the past two weeks to learn why pool water intermittently began turning cloudy on July 12. Through a process of eliminating possible causes, officials said earlier this week the culprit appears to be a rubber coating that was applied on pool walls last spring as part of voter-approved upgrades to the facility. 

Whatever the cause, the cloudy water hampers lifeguards’ ability to spot swimmers in trouble, Hall said.

“So while we are very disappointed to have to make this decision, we simply must value safety above all else,” she said in today’s release. 

The city will have information and vouchers on its web site, mfcity.com, and its Facebook page offering refund options for those who have already paid for swim lessons and season pass holders; pass holders will have a choice of a 50 percent cash refund or a full season individual or family pass for 2020 at no cost. A deadline for some options is 4 p.m. on Aug. 16.

Voucher forms are also available at Milton-Freewater City Hall, 722 S. Main St. 

Pool employees have been paid through the current pay period. Some will be retained on payroll to close out the season, Hall said.

“I’m trying to do the best I can with what we have. This is a huge hit to our general fund financially.”

City officials will continue to address the coating failure, Hall added.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers education in the Walla Walla Valley. She also writes a column, Home Place, usually highlighting family life and slices of local life.