TV6 Investigates: Pool inspection violations
UPDATE: In a statement to TV6, a spokesperson for Crow Valley Golf Club says in 2017 one of their employees inaccurately recorded the water chemistry for "one particular period."
They said there was no issue with the pool chemistry, but rather the number mistakenly recorded by the employee.
The company spokesperson says, "At the beginning of our 2018 season we made changes to our procedures to make sure that this type of incident could not occur in the future and to date have not had any further incidents. Crow Valley Golf Club monitors the pool chemistry multiple times per day and ensures the safest water levels consistently."
With hot summer days, comes packed public pools.
As you consider taking a dip at your local pool this summer, a TV6 investigation unveiled some hidden concerns you should know about.
Since mid-May, TV6 Investigates has spent hours combing through hundreds of pages of pool inspection reports from the summer of 2018.
What we found in these reports were numbers of violations throughout the Quad Cities, with the majority on the Iowa side of the Mississippi.
In Davenport and Bettendorf, inspections are conducted by the Scott County Health Department, which has a contract with the Iowa Department of Public Health to inspect pools and spas for safety and sanitation issues.
These inspections are conducted once or twice a year at outdoor facilities, and each facility has an obligation to perform daily, and hourly checks to ensure safety and sanitation compliance with the state.
In Moline, East Moline, and Rock Island, inspections are conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Inspection reports from 2018 show dozens of violations between the three city-operated facilities in Davenport.
These include Fejervary Park and Aquatic Center, Annie Wittenmyer Aquatic Center, and Dohse Pool.
We asked the Senior Parks Manager for Davenport, Betsy Tubbs, for answers.
Tubbs says, “We absolutely want the safest environment possible and the staff knows that.”
When asked about their processes, she says their staff conduct checks throughout the day in compliance with state health code; this includes checks every four hours in accordance with chlorine and PH testing.
In two separate reports from 2018 – one at Fejervary and one at Dohse – the inspector noted two lifeguard certificates missing at each location.
Tubbs, in response to that report finding explained, “I can reassure that even if a lifeguard certificate was missing, that lifeguard was certified, it was just a matter of timing as to get the certificate. I can also reassure that until we got that certificate, that lifeguard didn't work. It's just standard operating procedure for us."
Tubbs said some items rank higher in terms of safety, while others are less of a safety concern.
We asked Jackie Hall, an Environmental Health Specialist and inspector with the Scott County Health Department what the top safety and health concerns are.
She says the following are considered more highly concerning, or urgent, when it comes to inspections and day-to-day pool operations:
• Cloudy water
• Floor drains not seen, or floor drains missing covers
• Chlorine levels too high or too low
• PH readings out of normal range
In the circumstance these happen, a pool operator must close their pool immediately until the issues are fixed.
Reports show in two cases during 2018, this did not happen.
In June of 2018 at Crow Valley Golf Club in Davenport, an inspector noted, "not closing when water chemistry at unsafe levels," and at Fejervary Park in May of 2018, an inspector noted, "not recording a closure when chemicals out of range."
Hall says cloudy water presents a safety and health concern. As far as safety, she says cloudy water could make it dangerous to see swimmers, and would present a safety concern in the chance a swimmer was to have difficulty or be in distress.
In terms of health, Hall explained cloudy water can be an indicator of a chemical imbalance in the water.
She says, “At certain levels there’s an obligation to close the pool if anything doesn’t match up, whether the health department shows up or not.”
Hall says, when she and other inspectors go to facilities, they have specific things they look for, "We have an inspection checklist and we go through it and it covers every aspect of the Iowa swimming pool rules. When there are deficiencies noted, we write up the inspection report and the facility operator is required to give us a corrective action plan stating what they intend to do to correct the deficiency, and in what time frame. They have five days to give the corrective action plan, but generally we get it right at the time and they have 30 days to make the corrections unless there's an immediate hazard to correct right away."
Katie McDermott, the Pool Manager at Middle Park Splash Landing in Bettendorf emphasized the importance of conducting checks of PH and chlorine every four hours – an obligation of all pool operators.
She says, “we also just keep an eye on the water to make sure our water looks clear and our bottom lines are clear and see-able from the lifeguard stands and the pool decks.”
Like McDermott, Laura Bauer, a visitor from Milwaukee knows the importance of these checks.
Bauer is a former lifeguard, and said, "I used to live in an area where there was a huge bacterial outbreak in pools because they weren't keeping the water at the right PH and they weren't keeping the chlorine levels high enough to kill off the things it should have been killing off. It is something that’s super important because people got really sick. It was in a different area, it wasn't in the Quad Cities"
While not all inspection violations are a high safety concerns, officials say it is good to know what to look for when you’re out at the pool this summer.
Each facility is required to keep record of their daily inspection checks. If you have a concern or notice any issues with the water’s quality, officials urge you to notify the pool’s operator.
With plenty of time left in the summer, parents like Penny Hazen say they will continue to be cautious when taking their kids to pools, “Your child’s safety and the rest of your family should be your number one priority when you’re doing this. We want to have fun, but the kids gotta be safe.”
Stay with KWQC for more on this story. We are working to update this article with the 2018 pool inspection reports we obtained.