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Jun 16, 2017 5:21 PM

NH drought could be to blame for Barnstead man's pool problem

BARNSTEAD — A Barnstead man is speaking out after his 2-year-old pool is unusable due to what he claims is an installation error, but the company who installed the pool said changes to water flow underground are to blame. However, it appears as though weather may be the real culprit.

Cory Halvorsen had a pool installed by Empire Pools in May 2015, and it worked great for two summers until he took the cover off in April to prepare it for this year.

After a couple months of back and forth between Halvorsen and Empire Pools owner Jeff Huberty, with neither party feeling that they were to blame, the issue was determined to have been caused by groundwater.

Huberty had suggested that a drought New Hampshire had been experiencing last year would have kept the water table low, but he also said there could be other factors contributing to the issue as well.

"They are doing logging on that road, and they also dug out the culverts on his road too," Huberty said. "Did that have something to do with it? I can't say because I'm not a civil engineer, but there's a lot of things that could have contributed to what's going on."

NH1 News Meteorologist Ryan Breton confirmed that New Hampshire was in a moderate drought in May 2015 when the pool was installed. He said the drought peaked in severity in the fall of 2016, and that groundwater levels only recently returned to normal.

When asked about performing any sort of tests regarding groundwater, Huberty said his company has never had to and most of the pool companies he knows don't either.

"Generally speaking, when you're digging down, you'll know when you're getting close to water because it will start coming up from the bottom," Huberty said. "His was high and dry. There was no issues and nothing going on."

Halvorsen said he asked Huberty about soil tests to check the water table in a recent phone call and was told the same thing.

"From what I understand, it's not expensive to do, but you can actually test the soil and see where your water table will sit all the time," Halvorsen said. He said he thinks a test like this might have been useful when his pool was being installed. He said he expected the pool company to know about and watch out for potential groundwater issues.

"I would imagine that when we hired someone that's a pool company to do an install, that they would know what they need to do," Halvorsen said.

NH1 News reached out to Brian Short, president of Custom Pools Inc., who said if the pool was installed during a drought, there would be no way for the pool company to know there was a water problem. He also said that all the rain that the Granite State has experienced this past spring could certainly cause a liner to float. Short said this is one of the reasons his company only builds custom Gunite pools and not liner pools.

At this point, Halvorsen said he just wants the pool fixed. He said it's not about the money but instead making consumers aware of the situation so that they may avoid a similar one. He said he was unimpressed by Empire Pool's lack of response to his concerns, but Huberty contested this claim, saying that Halvorsen went to social media before trying to contact them.

Huberty said he has offered his final resolution, which is replacing the liner free of charge after Halvorsen pays to resolve the groundwater issue.

"I feel for the guy," Huberty said. "He's got 2 feet of water in an empty pool in his backyard that still hasn't drained out."

'A $40,000 Fish Pond'

"When we took our cover off, we noticed the lining was coming away from the edging," Halvorsen said, recalling when he first noticed the issue. He said upon closer inspection, he could see water both in and outside of the liner.

Halvorsen said he contacted the Empire Pools location in Concord, where he purchased the pool. They said they didn't have an idea what was happening and told him that Huberty would be in touch with him.

Huberty said they asked Halvorsen to send pictures of the pool to them, which he did. Huberty agreed that something was wrong and said he would set up a time for himself and the installer, who was subcontracted by Empire Pools, to assess the pool in person.

Halvorsen said he didn't hear from Huberty for about a week after initially contacting the store regarding the issue, but Huberty said he hadn't contacted Halvorsen yet because he was still coordinating a time to assess the pool with the installer.

Halvorsen said he called Empire Pools' Manchester location on April 20 and was told that Huberty was out of the office. He said when Huberty called him back he said he hadn't had time to make it out because he had been busy with other installations, which Halvosen said he understood.

"I figured contacting him, the earlier the better to try and get this issue fixed, because I certainly understand they have pools going in, but that's why I reached out in April," Halvorsen said.

Huberty said he had contacted the installer to set up a time for them to visit the property, but he was also on vacation that week. He said on April 25, he received a call from his Manchester store manager saying that Halvorsen had made a negative post about Empire Pools online.

"I called him and asked him, 'what is this all about?' and he proceeded to yell at me, 'You told me you'd call me yesterday!'," Huberty said. "I told him, No. 1, I'm on vacation, and No. 2, I told you I'd call you once I got in touch with the installer and had a chance to get out there."

Huberty said he left his vacation to meet with the installer and visit the pool.

Halvorsen said he and Huberty didn't speak much, and that Huberty didn't introduce himself, but Huberty said he and Halvorsen had been familiar before then. Halvorsen said the installer said he believed there was a liner issue and that Huberty suggested that it could be a groundwater issue.

Huberty said an agreement was made that Halvorsen would drain the pool and they would inspect it, and if it was determined to be a manufacturer's error, the installer would remove the liner and replace it with a new one.

History of problems

After visiting the home, Huberty said he asked Halvorsen to take down his negative posts online, but Halvorsen said he feels the only reason they had made an effort to assess the pool was because of the negative social media posts.

Halvorsen said he would never have had to go to social media if the issue had been resolved, but Huberty said he and Halvorsen began having issues in 2015 when the pool was initially being installed. Huberty said there was some sort of timing issue and that Halvorsen said he was going to go to the media, but that problem was resolved.

After assessing the pool, Huberty said they were waiting for Halvorsen's call, but Halvorsen said he was waiting to hear from them.

Halvorsen said he eventually got a call from the installer telling him that his liner was in, and on May 18 the installer came and cut the old liner from the pool.

After removing the liner, however, they couldn't find any tears or holes.

Empire Pools then suggested that Halvorsen's leech field could be leaking gray water into the pool area, causing the issue.

Halvorsen said his home is only 9 years old, so he thought it was a rare possibility that it was the leech field causing the issue, but he said he still hired someone to assess the situation. He said they confirmed that the leech field wasn't to blame.

Huberty said a new garage built on the property a short distance from the pool could be to blame.

"They may have caused a fracture in a water area and opened up a new area for water," Huberty said.

Halvorsen disputes this assessment and said that the water that used to flow into the backyard is blocked by the garage and goes into the front yard. He also said he has had multiple people assess the situation and agree that the garage isn't causing the problem.

While the exact cause of the issue has yet to be determined, Halvorsen said the issue was eventually identified as groundwater coming in underneath the liner.

"I've had several engineers in commercial construction come out," he said. "Basically they said there's a blockage because there's no drainage around the pool."

Halvorsen said the estimated cost of digging up the area to install drainage pipes will cost around $3,500. He said he would have much rather paid for it to be installed when the pool was being built instead of now, and that Empire Pools made an error in not installing drainage pipes.

Huberty disagreed and pointed to the fact that the pool had no issues for two years. He said he also reiterated his offer to replace the liner once the groundwater situation was taken care of.

He said he has spoken with other pool companies, as well as his manufacturer, and he said they all agree that if the pool had no issues for two years then something changed that affected the water table.

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