By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– With the hot weather this summer, many people are hitting the swimming pool, but how do you know that the pool your family uses is safe?
A study recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that over half of public swimming pools are contaminated with fecal matter. Some 58% of pools were positive for E. coli and 59% were positive for Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Public swimming places can become contaminated with feces after someone has an accident in the pool or if they do not wash themselves properly before entering the pool.
Health inspectors from the County of San Bernardino Department of Public Health, Division of Environmental Health Services brave extreme heat each summer to check the safety of public swimming pools and spas in our community. They conduct several tests on the pool water, including checking chlorine levels. If chlorine levels are too low, bacteria and viruses won’t be killed and people could get sick with a waterborne illness like giardiasis, shigellosis, or norovirus.
Periodically the chemical levels are too high. In some instances, our inspectors have observed pool chlorine levels so high that they exceed what is required for disinfectant solutions at restaurants. Our county inspectors work with the pool/spa operators to ensure that the pool chemicals are at the proper levels to kill germs and yet not be too high to hurt your skin or eyes.
However, waterborne illnesses aren’t the only things county health inspectors are looking to prevent at public swimming pools and spas. The inspectors are also looking for potential drowning hazards and immediate threats to the public’s health and safety. One of the key things the inspectors look for is main drain suction problems. Before certain health laws were enacted, many pools had dangerous suction issues. People have had their intestines sucked out (disembowelment) by the powerful force of the main drain’s suction. Others have had their eyeballs sucked out by the suction of the pool. Sadly, people have even died after becoming trapped by extreme force from the main drain suction. Our county health inspectors verify that all public pools and spas are in compliance with health and safety codes and that equipment (such as the safety vacuum release system or SVRS) is in place to prevent suction problems.
Unfortunately, people (most of whom are children) drown in San Bernardino County each year. The majority of drownings occur in private pools. One of the reasons there are so few drownings at public pools is that our county health inspectors will immediately close a public pool or spa with a drowning hazard and not re-open it until the hazard has been eliminated. Their vigilance in monitoring for safety hazards saves an untold number of lives each year and prevents countless cases of waterborne diseases. The next time you see an inspector in your community, take a moment to thank them for everything they do to keep your family safe. Please learn how to help prevent a friend or family member from drowning. Free materials and resources on pool safety and drowning prevention are available at www.poolsafely.gov.