By Jeremiah Corley
For many, Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the summer swimming season. And with all that fun, sun and splashing comes some inherent dangers that swimmers need to be aware of.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that thousands of public pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds across the country will close due to health and safety violations. They advise regular pool inspections throughout summer when risks are higher than usual.
When analyzing data from 2013 inspection reports from pools in Florida, New York, Texas, California and Arizona, the CDC found several violations. Among the pools inspected, the results showed the most common infractions included improper pH levels, which should be between 7.2 and 7.8, safety equipment and disinfectant concentration.
Donald Grove, sports and aquatics director of the Northwood Family YMCA in Gainesville, said every pool is going to experience at least one violation when being inspected, ranging from a broken gate to chipped plaster.
“We check the chemicals at least three times a day, which is required by the state of Florida,” Grove said. “As we get closer to summer, we’ll start testing every hour.”
In his 20 years of working with pools, Grove said he constantly checks the chemistry of pools to make sure it aligns with government standards.
“If we ever get to a point where we fall short of our regulations, we shut the pool down immediately,” Grove said.
James Harmeling, chief engineer and facility manager of the Hampton Inn and Suites in downtown Gainesville, said it’s not an exact science when it comes to maintaining the chemistry of a pool, but a lot does go into it. He checks the pool regularly for pH, alkalinity, chlorine, water hardness and cyanuric acid levels.
Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, said that environmental public health inspectors play an important role in protecting public health.
“However, almost one third of local health departments do not regulate, inspect, or license public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds,” Hlavsa said in the release. “We should all check for inspection results online or on site before using public pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds and do our own inspection before getting into the water.”
Harmeling said the Alachua County Health Department comes out four different times throughout the year. Inspectors look for working gates, the chemistry of the water, safety child latches, proper safety equipment, grates, drains and overall condition of the pool.
“There is a daily procedure that we do to make sure that the pool is not only safe, but has a nice environment as well,” Harmeling said. “We want to ensure the pool equipment is operating efficiently and that the pool is aesthetically pleasing.”
The CDC encourages swimmers to take extra precaution and to complete their own inspection of the pool before jumping in. They offer numerous methods to ensure that the pool meets the proper guidelines.