Columbia County swimmers can rest assured that the pools they visit in the county have recently passed the grade when it comes to being safe.
Residents of the Glennwood neighborhood enjoy the pool. The health department requires pool managers to test the water daily to ensure the quality of the water.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Somewhat like county restaurant inspections, public pools are examined by the Columbia County Health Department. During the latest visit by health department inspectors to the county's 54 public pools, including those at hotels and motels and apartment complexes, all passed the inspection.
"The pools don't get a grade (number); that's the difference (from restaurant ratings)," said Andrea Frazier, a health department environmental health specialist. "They (pools) get a pass-or-fail kind of thing. We actually close the pool if the pool is noncompliant in their chlorine level or the pool is cloudy and we can't see the bottom."
Frazier said the health department begins the season with a meeting with the person overseeing a public pool and the required certified pool operator. After a thorough inspection, pools are permitted to open.
That's not the last time, however, that inspectors visit the county's public pools, which include those at subdivisions, camps and gyms. Inspectors visit pools monthly for formal inspections and weekly for more informal checks of chlorine and pH levels, Frazier said.
"We're actually out there nearly every week throughout the season," Frazier said.
When summer days are hot and filled with sunshine, it's difficult to keep chlorine levels up in the pool, said Christian Kata, the head lifeguard who also is among those who handle maintenance at Glennwood Pool in Glennwood subdivision off Belair Road in Evans.
The health department requires a daily log of at least two checks of the pH and chlorine levels. Chlorine is burned out of the pool much faster in hot, sunny weather, Frazier said.
"(We check levels) twice a day," Kata said. "Then, usually, if it gets really hot, we'll do it again in the middle of the day (a third time)."
Kata said his pool was closed Thursday morning while pool staffers cleaned black algae from the bottom. He said the most common problem with maintaining a public pool is algae that results from swimmers who have been in Thurmond Lake and haven't washed their swimsuits.
"Usually, that's the main thing," Kata said.
Frazier said pools will be closed for noncompliance.
Christian Kata, the head lifeguard at the Glennwood pool, runs a chemical test on a water sample to check the chlorine level and pH value.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"We can shut a pool down if the pH level is too low or if you cannot see the bottom, the main drain, the clarity of the pool," Frazier said, adding that the pool's clarity could indicate other maintenance problems or something as simple as algae starting to set in. "If you can't see the main drain at the bottom of the pool, you're not going to be able to see a child very well swimming, either. It's a safety issue."
The health department inspects not only pools but also the entire pool facility, including the deck, showers, water fountain, spas, first-aid kits, lifesaving equipment, self-closing and latching gates, pool pumps, chemical feeders, water turnover rate and depth markers. Especially, inspectors also look for a land-line telephone capable of allowing calls to 911 in an emergency.
Lifeguards are not required at any public pool as long as proper warning signs are placed, Frazier said, adding that any lifeguard on duty must be CPR-certified.
"Most of (the pools) have them. Your hotel/motels don't. Most of the subdivision pools have gone to where they have lifeguards on duty,'' she said.
Frazier said no county public pools are currently closed. But when one is, she said it's obvious, with a large sign padlocked to the front gate.
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