July is the peak of summer swim season, and around the country millions of Americans of all ages are heading to community pools to beat the summer heat. That means health and pool inspectors are working overtime, and they don’t always like what they find. Now, cities around the country are coming down hard on pool managers who neglect their water.
Andrew Burns works for the Florida Department of Health and inspects pools in the popular tourist destination of Orange County, Florida, where many pools are open year-round. According to state regulations, pool inspectors like Burns must inspect pools twice a year. So far this year, only 62% of pools received satisfactory ratings, with some pools requiring emergency closures.
“There are certain diseases you can get from pools if they’re not maintained properly,” said Burns. “[The owners] are responsible for making sure they’re keeping up that pool…It’s very important for them to do it, because it does affect public health.”
The most common pool violation is low chlorine levels, which are necessary to stop the spread of harmful bacteria. Equally important are intact drain covers, which prevent body parts from getting trapped in the water suction system. Residential pool owners must clean and maintain their pool regularly as well. In addition to checking chlorine levels, residential pool pumps should be set to turn over the pool once every 24 hours.
And in Memphis, where many residents have been filling up public and private swimming pools since June, pool inspectors only check pool conditions once a year. This July, a local TV news station stepped up to help double check the water levels, with often disappointing results. At one popular local pool they found “dirty water and floating debris.”
Lifeguards and pool managers are supposed to carefully monitor chlorine levels, pH levels, and keep safety equipment up to code. When local health departments find severe violations, they have the authority to shut down pools immediately. Fortunately for swimmers, often times pools simply require a little TLC, and can be reopened within hours.