“We are teachers”, I say to the pool operator. “We make our living protecting our citizens as educators.” During our pre-opening inspection we have the greatest opportunity to prevent or minimize the risk for illness and injury at public swimming pool facilities. The relationships we create with the certified pool operators are critical to that success. We try very hard to be a resource to the folks taking care of the pools in our county. During the planned inspection, we discuss the Rules with the operators and real-life ways to avoid accidents and illness such as: loose or missing main drain covers, use of improper chlorine in erosion feeders, vacuuming with swimmers in the pool or vacuum line caps missing, adding chemicals to the pool while kids are swimming, placing chlorine tablets in the skimmer baskets, failing to repair gate closers and latches, storing pool chemicals improperly and failing to tighten handrails and ladders. Yes, these are all things directly witnessed over the years.
An inspection of a public swimming pool is an assessment of whether its maintenance and operation meet the public health standards set in the North Carolina Rules Governing Public Swimming Pools 15A NCAC 18A .2500. When the pool is compliant with the Rules an Operation Permit is issued to the facility and it may open to the public. Throughout the year unannounced inspections are performed to insure that the safe practices discussed earlier in the year are continuing. If the Rules continue to be met there is no change to the permit status. However, if violations are found, the permit status may change. A “30-day Intent to Suspend” may be issued if certain violations are discovered. The pool will be given time to correct the issues and may remain open. If the violations are failures to maintain minimum water quality or safety standards an “Immediate Suspension” will be issued and the pool must close immediately until the violations have been corrected and re-inspected by the Health Department. Again, we take the time to discuss with the pool operators and managers what went wrong, how to best correct the violation and the reasons for the permit action so it doesn’t happen again.
To learn more about the Public Swimming Pool Program with the Forsyth County Department of Public Health please call Environmental Health at 336-703-3225.