Pool in Inuvik, N.W.T., closed again; town considers putting lifeguards at river instead

The pool in Inuvik, N.W.T., is closed again indefinitely — and that has the town considering whether to install lifeguards near the river this summer instead.

A notice posted on the town's Facebook page on Tuesday said the pool closure at the Midnight Sun Complex was effective immediately and until further notice.

"During regular maintenance checks our facilities staff discovered a significant concern with the pool foundation," the notice reads.

"This requires immediate action to drain the pool and implement a comprehensive assessment of the pool structure. Pending the findings of this assessment, necessary repairs will be actioned."

Engineers will be brought in this summer to assess the foundation.

The Inuvik pool originally closed as a Covid precaution in March 2020, but has since remained closed for repairs.
The pool was also closed in 2020 and re-opened last year. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Cynthia Pihlaja, acting senior administrative officer for the Town of Inuvik, said it was important to close the pool before the problem got worse.

"At some point there needs to be a balance between operations and safety. Right now, paramount to me is safety — that we can still safely use the pool and ensure that we are addressing what the issue is, before we bring operations back online," said Pihlaja.

Pihlaja said a significant concern is that the foundation might be shifting due to melting permafrost.

Last year, the pool re-opened after a three-year closure due to leaks.

Town considers lifeguards at the riverbank

The town is now looking at other options for this summer, including monitoring the riverbank near the boat launch. The river is a popular swim spot during hot nights but there is no lifeguard on duty there.

Pihlaja says the town will need to train its lifeguards and educate the public before using the river as an alternative swimming area. She said swimming in a pool or lake is different than swimming in a river with a current, and it's important to ensure people are safe.

"Just because it's just off the shore, and we might have a lifeguard there, they still need to understand the inherent risks of moving water. So we want to ensure we are doing it safely, while still offering alternatives," said Pihlaja.

Cynthia Pihlaja is acting senior administrative officer for the Town of Inuvik, N.W.T.
Cynthia Pihlaja, acting senior administrative officer for Inuvik, says the town will need to train its lifeguards and educate the public before using the river as an alternative swimming area. (Dez Loreen/CBC)

Some residents want to see more formal infrastructure at the riverbank like signage or docks for kids to swim from.

Tamara Voudrach is a parent who commented on the original Facebook notice of the pool closure.

"In the summers, kids go down there regardless of whether there's safe zones or lifeguards or whatever. You're always going to find kids down there swimming," Voudrach told CBC.

Voudrach said a lifeguard or buoy lines would help make the river safer for swimmers.

"It's nice to see them having fun and a place to cool off — because there were some hot days last summer. But just knowing how swift that river is, we've had a lot of losses in that river — it's pretty scary," said Voudrach.

There is no timeline yet on when the pool will reopen.