To summarize the findings of a recently published survey: Operators need to step up their efforts to ensure pools are safe.

“For those in the aquatics industry, [this is] eye-opening information that is both sobering and full of opportunity,” said Frank Schiffman, senior market manager for Axiall Corp. in Atlanta, the company that funded the study.

“In particular, if you’re a pool operator, you’ll certainly want to know what health inspectors are looking for, commonly cited deficiencies, and how to keep your facility in compliance year ’round.”

The study, which was conducted by the National Association of County & City Health Officials, polled local health departments to determine which violations feet-in-the-street inspectors see the most.

The findings shed light on the frequency, duration and causes of pool closures. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they shut down a pool within the past two years. The reasons are as follows:

• Low sanitizing levels (90 percent)

• pH imbalance (61 percent)

• High stabilizer level (14 percent)

• Suspected or actual RWI outbreak (11 percent)

Of those pools that were closed because of a potential outbreak, it was an even split between those that were out of commission for one and two days. Most other violations (cloudiness, low sanitizing levels, poor record keeping, etc.) resulted in a one-day closure.

The survey also found that nearly 70 percent of the nation’s health inspectors hold credentials as a Certified Pool/Spa Operator or Aquatic Facility Operator, and 80 percent have received on-the-job training. This is in spite of many health department cutbacks on training resources.

“That gave them the validity ... to judge the facilities they’re visiting,” Schiffman said. The findings were unveiled at the World Aquatic Health Conference in Portland, Ore., in October.

The survey indicates that the majority of ordinance enforcers also are up to speed on the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. Nearly 80 percent say they always, or most of the time, check drain covers and fittings for compliance.

The Model Aquatic Health Code, however, appears to be a blind spot. Half of respondents said they never heard of it or were only vaguely familiar with it.

As for chemistry, there’s room for improvement. While nearly 100 percent indicated that they always test pH levels, free and total chlorine, and turbidity, they’re not on the same page when it comes to other water-balancing measures. Less than half make a practice of checking stabilizer levels and 40 percent never check the saturation index. Another 46 percent rarely check chemical feeders to ensure they’re using the proper chemical.

The survey also asked them to gauge how knowledgeable they perceive pool operators to be. The results showed that there are sectors of the industry that could use some more education. More than 40 percent of homeowners associations, apartment complexes and hotels/motels were identified as facilities where managers have limited knowledge of water and equipment maintenance. These properties also were singled out as having the most staff turnover. It’s perhaps no coincidence then that these pools rack up the most violations.

In contrast, pools at schools and universities are a bright spot. Operators at these facilities are the most knowledgeable and can be credited with maintaining the safest pools.

Schiffman hopes the findings will inspire inspectors and operators alike to become “agents of change,” and the report outlines some common-sense recommendations. For the complete report, visit

Source: “Looking for Trouble: Seeing eye to eye with health inspectors.”