Balmorhea pool irritant remains a mystery
By MARK GLOVER
BALMORHEA – The Balmorhea State Park swimming pool remains closed as biologists remain uncertain as to the identity of a mysterious irritant that has caused skin whelps on some swimmers.
“We’re going to drop it again Monday,” park Superintendent Tom Johnson said, referring to water level in the pool, a draining procedure process being used to perhaps expel the mysterious matter. “A little more cleaning. Hopefully we can purge this thing through.” The pool is fed naturally by the San Solomon Springs.
The pool was emptied to its minimal level of 8 feet last week and power washed. It was filled again last weekend.
Marfa resident Joey Benton, a frequent pool user and one of the swimmers who broke out in red whelps in February and March after swimming, was brought in Tuesday evening as a type of human guinea pig.
Benton dived into the renewed water at 6:44pm. While the press dog-paddled with the catfish, Benton swam with the intent of staying in the pool for at least 30 minutes, prompting, if possible, skin reactions to the mysterious irritant.
After six laps, Benton surfaced, flicking his head left and right, spraying droplets of water into the dying sun light.
“I feel good,” he shouted.
But as he dried off under the rock pavilion near the high dive board several red spots appeared.
“I feel a little itchy,” he said. “They feel like bites.”
Johnson shook his head as he walked with Benton toward the empty parking lot.
Wednesday morning, Benton reported 35 whelps. Not as bad as his March swim, but still something was in the water.
At press time, a preliminary report from a Texas Parks & Wildlife facility in San Marcos suggested an unknown fungus was identified in the pool sample water at a very low concentration of one part per trillion . The lab biologist also asked whether the pool was near a highway as apparently some small concentration of vehicle emissions were also found in the water sample.
“We’re going to keep fighting this thing,” Johnson said. “Whatever it is.”
Benton has volunteered to have his blood work examined and skin scrapings examined.
“Balmorhea pool is the crown jewel of the desert,” Benton reflected. “If they keep it closed, I’m leaving Texas.”
Story filed under: Top Stories