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Questions remain, facilities still closed after explosion at Modesto Junior College pool

What officials have called a "pool systems failure" has disrupted activities at the Modesto Junior College east campus, closed athletic facilities and forced people to swim laps in other pools in the area.

The June 17 incident, described as a loud bang by nearby residents, rocked the campus swimming pool area off Coldwell Avenue. The explosion in the pool supply room caused some structural damage, shattered windows and resulted in a chemical spill contained at the site, officials have said.

Ten days later, the MJC swimming pool, gymnasium, physical education buildings and offices and the campus library remain closed.

Officials with the Yosemite Community College District said the library was closed out of an abundance of caution and it's also on the same electrical system as buildings near the pool. Power, water and gas to those buildings was cut off while the damage was assessed.

Fire officials have said the explosion appeared to originate in a carbon dioxide system in the pool room, but the college has not released a definitive explanation.

In an update Monday, the college said that staff and consultants continue to assess the buildings for structural integrity and check for chemical residue in the surrounding area. “Until these assessments are completed, the impacted buildings and areas around the buildings will be closed to all access,” the update said.

YCCD Spokeswoman Coni Chavez said the utilities to the affected buildings must be carefully restored before the buildings can open.

With the PE facilities and offices taped off, the annual seven-on-seven passing tournament at MJC, which had been planned for Saturday, was canceled. The practice field near the MJC stadium is open again, but uncertainty about the availability of facilities made it impossible to plan the event for the 16 high school football squads, MJC Coach Rusty Stivers said.

Chavez said the practice field was closed temporarily after the explosion so it could be mowed and cleared of any debris.

The MJC stadium is closed until Aug. 12 for a track resurfacing and restroom upgrades. Chavez said the temporary stadium closure is not related to the June 17 incident.

“The resurfacing of the track had been planned for a year,” Chavez said.

The college doesn’t know how long before repairs are made and the swimming pool is open for classes and programs.

MJC Community Education told participants that information on canceled swim classes, credit toward future classes and reimbursements will be provided “once we have a clearer picture of what is available.”

Programs for adults and young people have been offered an alternative site for swimming at Oakdale High School. Officials have talked with Modesto City Schools about using a high school aquatics facility until repairs are completed at MJC.

"They are doing the best they can to accommodate a lot of different things," said Kathy Sandner of Modesto Area Aquatic Club. Some of the club members were swimming in Ripon.

Sandner said there's concern about what caused the explosion at MJC. What would have happened if the explosion had occurred 24 hours later, when the Blue Tide Aquatics youth program normally uses the pool?

"I would like for them to say what caused the explosion so it won't happen again," Sandner said.

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