Web Story: Economy Blamed for More Closed Swimming Pools

Photo by Flickr user Titlap

While pools maintained by Polk County are likely to be clean and healthy, 2010 health department inspection reports indicate that other types of pools – particularly those in resort-oriented communities, mobile home parks and  apartment complexes – are not.

Almost every pool and bathing place in Polk County has been inspected by the State of Florida Department of Health County Health Department since January. Out of those, 186 pools were deemed unsatisfactory, some to the point of being closed until problems could be addressed. Some pools were closed multiple times throughout the year.

According to Polk County Health Department Environmental Supervisor Ron Staddlebacher, the 713 public pools and 12 bathing places in Polk County  are graded according to a rubric that rates the appearance, cleanliness and safety of the pool area, water quality and equipment. He estimates that in the past, approximately 25 percent of inspected pools are closed due to violations. Click here for a list of pools that were closed or cited as unsatisfactory multiple times this year.

Visitors Should be Wary

Pools in which the majority of users are renters or visitors seemed to suffer from more frequent problems in this year’s inspections process. Of the 186 different pools that were considered unsatisfactory or closed due to unsafe conditions:

  • 51 were at mobile home parks,
  • 47 were community pools (most at Davenport-area resorts and vacation home complexes geared toward visitors),
  • 42 were at motels or inns and
  • 29 were at apartment complexes.

Sun Ray Motel in Frostproof was one pool that was closed for code violations, including violations concerning the filtration system. The motel pool remained closed for most of April, May and June because “we didn’t have no money,” said Jay Patel, a manager there. In addition to the $200 it costs to maintain the pool each month normally, repairs that would bring the pool back up to code cost Sun Ray about $1,200 which was cost prohibitive in this economy, Patel said. “Some of the customers cared but a lot of them said ‘We understand what you’re going through.’”

(Most) Local Governments Can Still Afford Proper Pool Care

No county or city-managed pools were closed due to health department inspections. Mulberry Municipal Pool had an inspection before it opened for the summer and had a number of safety violations, including chemical levels, the gutter grates, supplies and correct pool markings, but the problems were fixed before the pool was open to the public. Mulberry budgets about $22,000 for the pool’s operations, maintenance and employees, and the pool is open for approximately two months during the summer.

Bartow Civic Center Pool was asked to address a life ring and safety line violation, but was considered satisfactory two weeks later. The pool’s maintenance and operationsannual budget is $38,000, which doesn’t include salaries for the 16 seasonal aquatic staff members Bartow employs each summer.

Staddlebacher suspects the good rate of inspections is because the government is “set up to maintain their pools” and other locations suffer from seasonal problems more easily. “In hotter parts of the year, chlorine can dissipate, enough that it won’t be in the range,” he explained.

Some public pools, including the Davenport Municipal Pool, were closed this summer because of budgetary concerns. Roger Leland, Davenport’s interim Parks and Recreation director, said that in the past, the city assigned $25,000 in the budget to open and maintain Davenport’s Municipal Pool during the summer months. “We didn’t have the money in the budget this year, and it looks like we may not have it next year,” he said. Leland said the falling property prices and less revenue from the tax base caused the squeeze on this year’s budget.

Pool Problems Cost Money

Many of the problems seen in this year’s inspections process were issues that most visitors probably wouldn’t even notice – required rules not being posted, problems with maintenance logs or equipment rooms and improper fences.

However, several of the closed or “unsatisfactory” pools received their ratings for serious safety violations. Some categories – including the pool’s chemical balance, emergency rescue equipment like the life hook and problems with the recirculation system – are considered major areas of compliance, and a pool can be immediately closed if one of those areas does not meet standards. Find out more about critical health violations at pools open to the public.

The average time it took for a pool to meet satisfactory requirements during the 2010 inspections process was two weeks, although Staddlebacher points out that the length of time is due to the fact that some violations can take a significant amount of time and money to bring to code, and some pools had to go through multiple re-inspections before the pools were considered satisfactory.

Click here for the pool inspection records database. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have information on keeping pools healthy and clean.

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  1. September 14, 2010 at 6:03 pm

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