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Are pools safe for summer crowds?

Posted at 10:25 PM, May 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-25 01:31:33-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - City and county pools are getting set to open for the summer, but a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control says thousands of pools across the country routinely close due to health violations.

The report estimates almost 80 percent of public pools had at least one health violation after inspection which draws on data sent to them from five states in 2013. Pima County submitted data to the CDC for the report and has done so for the past three years.

The three most common violations across the country involve pH levels, safety equipment, and disinfectant concentrations in pools.

David Ludwig, who works with the Pima County Health Department, says the county's most common problems mirror that exactly. There have been no disease outbreaks in Pima County, but Ludwig says there have been instances when someone gets sick from swimming in the pool.

In 2015, 1,681 pools under county jurisdiction were inspected 2,777 times. Ludlow says 177 of those inspections resulted in closures last year, or about 6.4 percent. Those numbers include public pools (like one owned by the city or county) and semi-public pools (like one at your apartment complex). They also track safety data for spas.

Pima County Parks and Recreation operates ten pools and splashpads. Aquatics supervisor, Jodi Layton, says they do not have the issues named in the report.

"That seems like a large number, we haven't had those instances with our county pools," said Layton.

Layton says they test their pool water every hour which is required according to county regulations.

"Especially in the summer this pool in particular is very busy so the bather load increases quite a bit when we open for the summer so the pool is working very hard to stay on top of the chemical make up of it to keep it where it needs to be," she said.

Layton says if they find their water to be too cloudy or the chemical balance is thrown off, they will close the pool themselves to fix the problem. She added, it's a good idea for parents to know what to look for too.

"Do they see all the safety things in place, the safety equipment, the life guards, does the pool look clear and clean to be swimming in? If it doesn't then you may want to take a second look, talk to a supervisor, and maybe not swim in it," said Layton.

That is good advice for anyone who uses semi-private pools. The state requires those pools to be inspected once per year, Ludwig says they may not be monitored in the same way as a public pool. You can find test strips for chlorine, bromine, and pH levels at a local superstore. Click here for recommendations from the CDC.

Ludwig says currently the county is operating on pool code extending back to the 1980's. The county is working on updating those codes.

According to the CDC report, "the findings of this report underscore the need to improve the operations and maintenance of U.S. public aquatic facilities to prevent illness and injury, as more than three quarters of routine inspections of public aquatic venues identified at least one violation." 

All county pools open Saturday, May 28. All season city pools open June 1.