Columbia County swimmers can jump right into their nearest public swimming pool knowing that most of the county's pools are deemed clean and safe after undergoing recent inspections.
As of July 31, seven public swimming pools in the county had been closed at various times during the year.
The closed public pools were located at Econo Lodge, Farmington subdivision, Hampton Inn and Suites, Hawthorn Suites, Jensen's Wymberly Retirement Community, Omni Health and Fitness and apartment one at Shenandoah Ridge, environmental health specialist Leslie Lanier wrote in an e-mail.
Once they receive clearance by the Columbia County Health Department, which could take as few as a couple of hours, the pools are allowed to re-open.
"Typically, if a pool does not pass inspection it means they have not met all the requirements that ensure swimmers' safety and health," Lanier stated. "Once the pool has corrected all violations, they will contact the health department to schedule an inspection to re-open the pool."
During the swimming season, three inspectors from the county's health department randomly check all of the county's 61 public pools, including those in neighborhoods and at hotels, motels and camps.
"In Columbia County, we generally inspect the seasonal pools monthly after the initial inspection and the year-round pools every three to four months," Lanier wrote.
The inspection report is separated into five sections, she said, and requires that chemical levels are checked twice a day and recorded into a daily log book.
"During an inspection, the chemical levels in the pool water are checked, the pump and filtration system are checked to make sure they are functioning properly and the facility is inspected for signs, safety equipment and other general things," Lanier said.
Ariel Knight, a lifeguard at Northwood's neighborhood pool, was on scene during a recent inspection and has watched two previous inspections take place at the pool.
"Every time that I've been up here and they've come up here, they said we had a great pool and it was running fine," the 17-year-old said.
The lifeguards at Northwood's pool make sure the pool area and kiddie pool stay sanitized and maintained.
The pool's six filters are cleaned and checked for bugs, leaves and frogs at least twice a day, Knight said.
During their shifts, lifeguards also check the pool's chemical levels, such as the PH and chlorine amounts, Knight said, and the last lifeguard on duty cleans the bathrooms and takes out the trash.
After the chemical levels are checked, the results are called in to Carefree Pools and Spas, where the daily records are kept.
The lifeguards also vacuum the pool at least three mornings a week, and more if needed.
Depending on the amount of debris in the pool, Knight said, vacuuming takes anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. The corners of the pool usually need the most cleaning, she said.
"It's not so bad, especially when it's kept up with," Knight said.
The pool can easily become dirty when grass is tracked into the water, she added.
"We haven't had too much trouble this year with it," she said. "Our lawn guys actually have done quite a good job of keeping it out of our pools."
Carefree Pools and Spas also conducts an electronic chemical analysis twice each month for many neighborhood pools in the county, including Windmill, Country Place and Farmington subdivisions, said Michael Eastergard, owner of Carefree Pools and Spas.
Swimmers also can contribute to their safety in public swimming pools by remaining aware of their surroundings.
They should check the water clarity of a pool before entering and ask an attendant about the chemical levels in the water, Lanier said.
"Be aware of the location of the safety equipment," she said. "Be aware if there is a lifeguard on duty and follow the pool rules."
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