Did you know the main tank at the Seas pavilion in Epcot was all tragi-sad lately? Well it is. The problems with the filtration system shut down all tank dive programs and experiences. Here’s a quick quote from out previous blog post so you don’t have to click around to find it:
If you were unaware, the giant fish tank at The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion (formerly and often still called “The Living Seas”) has been having problems recently.
At 203 ft. diameter and 27 ft. deep, the main tank of the pavilion holds 5.7 million gallons of water. Trouble with the filtration systems in the tank has been causing Disney to issue various warnings about the water clarity to guests and offer reassurance that the clarity of the water has no effect on the marine life. These reports have previously come with sporadically throughout the life of the pavilion as the system was serviced and repaired. Most recently, the reports have come almost weekly and on October 7th got to the point where it forced the closure of the pavilion.
This was not a planned maintenance closure – the ride and pavilion was shut down, the Coral Reef dining facility canceled its reservations and guests were called to book elsewhere. Cast Members who saw the pavilion in that state say the water extremely murky and had a reddish hue due to the algae.Reports of leaks needing constant attention around the tank have also accelerated in the past six to eight months.
The saltwater environment created in the pavilion has always been troublesome. Ionization causing the rapid decay of structures has plagued the pavilion since its inception. These problems caused the original 1986 sponsor, United Technologies, to try and abandon the pavilion as early as 1991 (well short of any other Epcot contract length) and for Disney to seek outside help – as their own engineers were left befuddled.
An explanation of the systematic problems can be found in this excerpt about the history of the pavilion included in our book The Epcot Explorer’s Encyclopedia:
The Living Seas as a whole won a prestigious award for engineering in 1987. The American Society of Civil Engineers annually recognizes an exemplary civil engineering project as the Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA). Established in 1960, this prestigious award honors the project that best illustrates superior civil engineering skills and represents a significant contribution to civil engineering progress and society. Honoring an overall project rather than an individual, the award recognizes the contributions of many engineers.
However, by the mid-1990s problems with the initial design of the pavilion became apparent. The salt water environment itself is extremely harsh on anything submerged within it, causing it to eventually dissolve, including the side walls of the tank. A company called, CH2M HILL, was brought in to design a solution. Special cathode ionizers had to be developed for the tank that removed charged particles from the water to lower the amount of corrosion. The tank became very technologically advanced, even envelope pushing. The company along with Disney developed guidelines to increase building longevity in Florida and other hot and humid environments based on their experience with the Living Seas. They showed how to create a climate which is sustainable through design despite the surroundings.
It seems now though that these innovative solutions are beginning to fail as well. Rumors are now circulating that the Seas pavilion may soon be forced into an extended closure to overhaul the water systems as band-aid fixes are no longer holding for very long. Until that happens or another solution emerges, expect intermittent periods of cloudy water, poor visibility, and possible unannounced closures of the attraction. Good luck finding Nemo in the fog.
Oh the memories, that all seemed so long ago. You’d think the tank would be fixed by now, right? Well, it’s not. Disney is hoping to have the problem fixed by late November and has currently canceled all tank programs through November 26th. Intrigued, we scheduled a little tour of our own to see just how bad the tank had gotten. Unlucky for us – but a karmic win for Disney’s PR department – the tank was in good shape this past weekend; to the point of the Cast Members saying they hadn’t seen it look that good in a while.They say it has good days and bad days as the filtration systems are worked on and cycled. The large rays have been removed from the tank as well as a few other species due to their sensitivity to changes in the environment.
We took photos for your enjoyment, and while the water quality is grand, we can’t help but point out that having impeccably clean water does make it easier to see the crumbling infrastructure of the tank beyond the windows. Also, we snapped a photo of the plaque of the 1987 design award the pavilion won – for sheer irony’s sake. Enjoy!