Commercial pool operators throughout Texas are allowing hazardous
pools to remain open, despite warnings from health inspectors and
service technicians, according to various sources.
Pool professionals claim that hazards such as cloudy water and
unlocked gates have resulted in a number of drownings in 2011
“Some commercial operators are very reluctant to close a
pool, even when the water’s so cloudy you can’t see the
bottom,” said Mike Baker, president of the Corpus Christi
Chapter of the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association.
“Even when I explain the drowning hazard, some still
won’t close it.”
In many cases, operator resistance is a result of pressure from
tenants, ignorance of current regulations, or lack of available
funds, Baker said. Complicating the problem is the fact that some
municipal health inspectors fail to enforce a state requirement
that any commercial pool in violation of safety standards must be
closed immediately until the issue is resolved.
This lack of enforcement may stem from short-handedness, since the
state provides no funds to city health departments for the specific
purpose of inspecting pools. This means many hazards on commercial
sites are discovered not by health inspectors, but by service
techs, who have no power to enforce the law.
However, even when inspectors do arrive on-site, some are
unfamiliar with current state codes on water clarity and pool
enclosures. So violations often slip by unnoticed.
“You can go to some cities, and the inspectors are hardly
enforcing any of the safety regulations unless there’s a
specific complaint,” Baker said.
Thus, many commercial pools continue to operate with hazards such
as blockable main drains, cloudy water and unlocked gates —
even after the city health department has noted the
“We’ve seen a lot of operators simply refuse to change
a noncompliant drain cover,” said Dave Galloway, president of
Galloway Pools & Spas Inc. in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Galloway’s techs do their best to communicate with
noncompliant site owners in person; they also note any hazards in
writing on their invoices. (Legal experts recommend sending the
operator a certified letter describing the hazard, and explaining
any need for temporary closure, in order to document that the
service company performed its legal duty to inform the operator of
the problem.) Still, Baker notes that significant change will have
to come from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“It’d hardly cost anything for them to send out a
letter to city and county health departments explaining the code,
and explaining why operators need to abide by it,” he said.
“And that would make a huge difference.”
Texas officially began tracking drowning rates in 2005; and in
2008, child drowning deaths hit a record high of 82. That rate has
declined somewhat in more recent years, but experts stress that
vigilance remains crucial.