Health: Be safe while at the pool

By Debbie Howes Fleming Published:


Memorial Day, the “official” beginning of summer, is the traditional day for most public swimming pools and waterparks to open. The Environmental Team of the Franklin County Health Department is responsible for ensuring that the local swimming areas in Franklin County are as safe and healthy as possible.

Pools are inspected at least once a month, twice a month for the bigger pools, by a Senior Health Environmentalist. Pools, whether they are at a public park, in an apartment complex or at a motel must be enclosed by a fence with a gate that can be secured by a lock. Life saving equipment such as a shepherd’s crook and ring buoys are to be easily accessible and in plain sight. 

A lifeguard on duty must be certified. The training includes lifesaving techniques and includes knowledge about chemicals that are needed to keep the water safe. The lifeguard is required to check the chemical and pH levels of the water three times a day and record that data in a logbook. During a routine inspection, the environmentalist checks the certification record and the logbook.

The Environmentalist is looking for adequate water levels, clear water, and properly working pumping equipment. The inspection includes checking to see if the appropriate chemicals that are needed to treat the water are present and stored correctly. If the inspector feels that the pool is not safe he or she has the authority to close the pool until the problems are resolved.

In the past two decades there has been a rise in the number of reported recreational water illnesses. Recreational water illnesses are illness caused by the ingestion of contaminated water that may be found at all recreational water sites including lakes and oceans.

The most common source of contamination is fecal material. Diarrhea, infections of the ear, eye and skin and respiratory illness are all types of illnesses caused by contaminated water. Even the most well maintained pool can be a host since chemicals don’t work automatically and it may take time to clear the water of bacteria once it is contaminated.

You and your family can enjoy the fun of water recreation during the summer and still stay healthy by following some simple hygiene rules and good sense practices.

nAvoid swimming in a pool or using a spa if the water looks murky and unclean. A noticeable chemical odor may also be a sign that equipment is not working properly.

nNever swim when you have diarrhea, always wash your hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, make sure that children have frequent bathroom breaks and avoid swallowing water or even getting water in your mouth.

nThe same rules apply if you have your own pool or spa in your backyard. Follow  manufacture’s directions concerning testing of chlorine and pH, being especially careful during hot weather. Maintain your filtration and cleaning equipment to help keep your pool or spa sparkling for summer fun.

For more information concerning the prevention of recreational water illnesses call the Environmental Team at 564-7382.


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