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St. Petersburg's North Shore Pool poster child of sustainability

North Shore is the area’s only public pool open now that summer vacations are over.

ST. PETERSBURG — North Shore Aquatic Complex, which claims bragging rights for its Olympic training facilities, now also can boast of its sustainability efforts.

New energy-saving geothermal and filtration systems and solar power have put the facility at the forefront of Mayor Rick Kriseman's recently announced initiatives to make St. Petersburg an even greener city.

"It's probably one of the most successful sustainability efforts the city has done to date," said parks and recreation director Michael Jefferis of the $400,000 project.

Built in 1964, North Shore also has undergone a $1 million renovation that included replacing gang showers with individual changing and shower stalls, family restrooms, locker rooms, additional toilets and improved plumbing. Heating and air conditioning have been added and improvements made to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The facility had been outdated, Jefferis said.

"We have taken it to 2015 and beyond. We are running one of the most efficient, one of the nicest facilities," he said of the complex at 901 North Shore Drive NE that includes a 50-meter pool, 25-yard training pool and a play pool with a giant flume slide and splash pad.

"We have taken several components and taken it to a whole new level. Michael Phelps, when he comes into town, this is where he wants to practice," Jefferis said of the famous Olympian.

The pool also is known as the training ground of St. Petersburg's own Olympian Nicole Haislett, Paralympian Brad Snyder and other world-class swimmers.

Besides money and energy savings, installation of the $250,000 geothermal technology will keep North Shore pool — the only public pool open now that summer vacations are over — at 83 degrees or cooler.

"When we have big meets come in, we will drop the temperature and within a matter of hours get an ideal temperature," said parks and recreation manager Bryan Eichler.

"That makes St. Petersburg a highly desirable location for competitive meets," Jefferis said.

The geothermal project, completed in May, involved replacing the electric heat pumps. The geothermal pool heat pump works by using the constant temperature of groundwater running through pipes to heat or cool a refrigerant that is used to control the pool temperature.

Though the system is expected to save money, Jefferis said it's too soon to say how much.

"We haven't had a winter under our belt yet," he said. "We know in the past, we have had to run both electric and gas heat to get the pool usable."

For now, the city will keep the gas heater as a backup.

"Once the gas heater is past its useful life, we don't plan to replace it," Eichler said, adding that it's unlikely to be needed.

Jefferis also touts the $125,000 filtration project. With the old system, North Shore staff had to backwash the pool once a week, dumping 2,500 to 2,900 gallons of water, "wasting money, wasting electricity, staff time and chemicals," Jefferis said.

The new filtration system has meant backwashing only twice in the past six months, he said, adding that it is "state of the art," the only one of its kind in Pinellas County and among a handful in Florida.

Eichler, who suggested the technology after working with it at his last job at the South Suburban Parks and Recreation District in Colorado, said the system should pay for itself in four to five years.

"We've seen awesome things in the last six months," said North Shore Pool supervisor Rebecca Hansen. "It has exceeded all of our expectations."

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

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