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Pool season brings attention to health, safety conditions
No major violations at aquatic center
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A swimmer practices laps in the 10-lane competition pool at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center Thursday morning. The Center also features a 4-lane indoor instructional pool. The Center recently passed a full inspection of the pool in April.

National inspection review

Data was collected in 2013 on pools, spas and water parks in the five states with the most public pools and hot tubs — Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas. 

8 in 10 facilities had at least one violation.

1 in 8 inspections resulted in immediate closure due to serious health and safety violations.

1 in 5 kiddie/wading pools were closed, the highest proportion among all facility’s reviewed.

Improper pH levels, safety equipment failure and disinfectant concentration were the most common violations.

The CDC has developed the Model Aquatic Health Code, the first national standards for the design, construction, operation and maintenance practices to prevent illness and injury at public treated recreational water venues.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/mahc.

A checklist is available for parents and children that will help identify some of the most common health and safety problems at dph.georgia.gov/pools.

The safety advisories are flashing this weekend as Hall County residents head out in remembrance and celebration of Memorial Day and the unofficial kickoff to summer. 

Caution: Slow down, don’t boat under the influence and be careful with fireworks.

But there’s a silent danger often overlooked, lurking in the waters where we swim.

“We are currently in the midst of the opening of pool season,” Kelly Hairston, Hall County environmental health manager, said. “Pools/spas that fall under the regulations are permitted annually.  Opening inspections may not yet be complete.”

Caution: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this month that of more than 84,000 routine inspections of public pools, water parks and spas made in 2013, 12.3 percent led to immediate closures due to at least one violation posing a serious threat to public health.

Those findings have spotlighted the need to improve the safety of public aquatic facilities and put local public health authorities on notice.

Dirty pools can cause outbreaks of illness, including respiratory distress and burns, while young children are particularly susceptible to disability or even death, according to the CDC.

The Frances Meadows Aquatic Center in Gainesville is a popular destination for young and old.

The good news is that no major violations were found in the kiddie play pool, leisure pool, activity pool or competition pool during the most recent inspection conducted in April.

Joe Davidson, building official for the Gainesville Community Development Department, said his staff inspected all filters and pumps during installation and that outside of routine maintenance, “we have not had any pump replacements or any of the chlorination equipment.”

But precautions for all pools are warranted, according to the CDC.

In the review of inspection reports across five states (Georgia not included), disinfectant concentration violations were identified in 11.9 percent of all cases, representing a significant risk for aquatic facility–associated infectious outbreaks. 

And pool chemical safety violations were identified in 4.6 percent of routine inspections, representing a smaller risk for adverse chemical–associated health reactions.

A total of 650 aquatic facility–associated outbreaks were reported to the CDC between 1978 and 2012.

And adverse health reactions resulted in an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 visits to U.S. emergency rooms annually. 

According to the CDC, the review findings “can be used to identify aquatic facilities and venues in need of more frequent inspections and to select topics to cover in training for aquatic facility operators” at the local and state level. 

Though some counties have their own regulations for public pools, Hall County abides by state codes.

The local public health department inspects swimming pools at schools, hotels, health clubs, camps, spas and water parks, for example, but not private swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, or at apartment complexes, country clubs or subdivisions that are open only to residents and their guests.

Inspections include checking chemical operational parameters; circulation systems; filters; pumps/motors; temperature requirements; and disinfectant equipment/chemical feeders, among other things.

Some violations are not considered “substantial health hazards” and may not require closures, according to Dave Palmer, spokesman for the District 2 Public Health office located in Gainesville.

But any imminent risk, such as improper chemical levels, disinfectant system failures or insufficient water clarity, would result in closure, Palmer said.

And all fecal incidents must be reported to the local health department and proper cleaning must occur before a pool can reopen.

“If there are violations that warrant the closure of the pool/spa, (it) must remain closed until all violations are corrected and a re-inspection is performed,” Hairston said. “Closures depend on the severity of the violation. If violations are found during the course of inspections throughout the remainder of the season, they are often corrected on-site during the inspection.”