Plunging deeper and deeper into debt, Prince Albert's boil water order may spell the end for the Marion Aquatics Pool.
"It's very worrisome for us," Sister Jean said. "We don't want to close the pool - we want to keep it open to the community ... If the doors close, it's not because we haven't tried and wanted to keep it open to the public."
Like the city's other public pool - the taxpayer-subsidized Frank Dunn Pool - the Marion Aquatics Pool was closed Feb. 7 in response to the city's treated water testing positive for the potentially harmful giardia and cryptosporidium microorganisms.
"The sad thing is, the kids were waiting outside to start their lessons," Jean said.
Unlike the Frank Dunn Pool, the Marion Aquatics Pool isn't subsidized by taxpayers, instead depending entirely on the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, with Sisters Jean and Annette managing the pool on a volunteer basis to help keep costs down.
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A pool typically booked solid throughout the week by aquasize groups, Red Cross swim lessons and family swims, a month's worth of unbroken water has racked up $15,000 in debt - an amount expected to reach greater heights by the end of the boil water order, which is estimated to last another month.
Having never been required to shut down this long in the past, and with fewer nuns in their convent than ever before footing the bill, the pool's future is now up in the air, Jean said.
"We run in the red without handling the shutdown," Jean said, adding that the group of 45 nuns - 35 of whom collect old age pension - can't afford the added financial stress the pool's shutdown has caused.
We don’t want to close the pool — we want to keep it open to the community … If the doors close, it’s not because we haven’t tried and wanted to keep it open to the public. - Volunteer pool manager Sister Jean
"We can't put our elderly sisters in jeopardy either," she said, noting that about 20 of the Presentation of Mary's sisters are in the infirmary with costly medical needs that need tending to.
In October, the pool's millionth client dipped their toe in the pool, having first opened its doors in 1977.
"We have met thousands and thousands of beautiful people, and we have served the community," Jean said.
"And lovely people have become lifeguards," Annette added.
More information on the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary - a registered charitable organization - can be found on their website, www.presentationofmary.ca.