Whether it’s a large public pool, or a small residential one, maintaining a delicate balance of the chemicals is key to ensuring the water is clean and healthy. In addition, keeping all of a pool’s components in good working order is an important part of keeping a pool clean. The average residential pool, for example, should be turned over by the pump at least once every 24-hours. This can still be accomplished at a lower speed, which in turn reduces energy consumption and costs.
Despite these measures, an outbreak of water-borne illnesses that have been linked to public swimming pools is plaguing the nation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report revealing startling — perhaps even slightly disturbing — facts and statistics.
Published late last month, the CDC’s report documented a series of outbreaks causing neurological problems, gastrointestinal illnesses, and skin and ear infections in 32 states and Puerto Rico. The outbreaks affected 1,788 people, caused 95 hospitalizations, and one death between 2011 and 2012, the last years for which data is currently available.
The main illness-causing culprit is microscopic parasite called Cryptosporidium that is transmitted through contact with feces. Cryptosporidium is also chlorine-resistant, making it difficult to eliminate.
Jefferson County has roughly 600 public swimming pools, but not all of them are clean enough for swimming. According to a recent inspection report from the Jefferson County Department of Health, several of the county’s pools simply weren’t safe or clean enough for use. Some pools graded in the report had no measurable amounts of chlorine in the water, creating a breeding ground for potentially dangerous pathogens.
“If proper water chemistry levels are too low the water is not sufficiently disinfected,” wrote Jeff Swinney, program manager for the Jefferson County Department of Health. “If levels are too high, i.e. chlorine, bathers may experience skin and or eye irritation.”
The public pool with the lowest grade is located at the Park at Carlyle apartment complex in Birmingham, where inspectors found algae growing, broken chemical feeders and pumps, broken ladder tread, and debris at the bottom of the pool.
In order to reduce the chances of contracting a pool-related illness, the CDC urges pool goers to look out for cloudy or green water, which can signal a growth of unhealthy germs and microorganisms. In addition, the CDC recommends showering in cool to cold water immediately before and after swimming in a public pool.