News

Helping Our Desert Town Swim Again

:: Thursday, September 9, 2021 :: Posted By Mary Beth Garrison

Boron, California has been home to U.S. Borax for almost a century. This small desert town—with a population of just more than 2,000—is also home to more than 100 of our employees and their families. And, for generations, adults and children have swum in Boron's one public pool—a place to cool down on hot summer days, when temperatures average higher than 100°F (38°C).

An old pool made older by pandemic

Our company built the pool originally, in 1972, and donated it to the school district who have faithfully maintained and operated it since then. It's on the grounds of Boron's high school and is open to the public to swim for free every summer afternoon.

But COVID-19 hastened a decline of Boron's much-loved pool. The pandemic forced it to close in early 2020, and the desert climate has since pushed it into disrepair.

Dry desert winds have torn the pool's cover, sand has accumulated on the bottom, and black algae has penetrated its walls. The locker rooms need refurbishing and the chlorination and heating system needs to be replaced. In its current condition, the Public Health Department will not allow it to reopen, and its 50 miles to the next nearest public pool.

The total cost for the repairs will be in the region of $250,000.

Community strong

Boron doesn't have a community center or an arcade where kids can congregate. The pool is the center of activity for the community in the summer. It gives everyone something to do and a place to gather with friends safely. So, restoring the pool really matters to the community.

The Boron community banded together to raise the funds needed to get the pool back into action, and U.S. Borax matched what they raised dollar for dollar.

Fundraising itself has already made a big difference for the community. Groups worked together for a common goal. Jerry Gallegos, a U.S. Borax retiree and community leader said, "It is not for me—I'm 71 years old—but for the 10-year-old down the street. It gives them a safe place to hang out with their friends and cool off.

"A young girl gave us $10 of her birthday money and another teenager gave us $40 from her job at the truck stop. They want to help. They missed the pool not being open last year. We gotta get our town back to normal … and an operating, clean, safe pool is important. It's really important."

Getting to the goal

In mid-July, the community reached their fundraising goal of $65,000. On September 8, Danny Buckley, maintenance and services manager at U.S. Borax, was joined by five other mine senior leaders, to present the matching checking to the Muroc School District. “We appreciate the amount of work it has taken to raise $65,000. We are proud to match that achievement and present our check today—alongside our community neighbors. This has truly been an amazing partnership. We can’t wait to see the complete restoration,” he said.

However, the $130,000 is still short of the amount needed to do the job right. Not to be discouraged, we reached out to State Senator Shannon Grove requesting state infrastructure funding, to close the gap. Senator Grove went to bat for the community and the governor passed the state budget which included a $200,000 grant for the Boron Pool Restoration project.

Now, with a total of $330,000 for repairs, a community committee is working with the school district to rebuild the pool of their dreams, including accessible steps and rails.
 

Resources

U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 500 customers with more than 1,700 delivery locations globally. We supply 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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