Owners and operators of public pools are weighing tough options.

They can install an access method, such as a mechanical lift, on every pool they operate, close the pool voluntarily or face governmental investigation and possible legal threats.

These options have been imposed by recent revisions to the Americans with Disabilities Act swimming pool guidelines, particularly the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, which mandate that any commercial pool containing more than 300 linear feet of pool wall perimeter must have at least two means of wheelchair-accessible entry.

“One site manager told me he’s looking at $60,000 to put access lifts on all his pools,” said Steve Santoro, sales manager with Adams Pool Solutions in Pleasanton, Calif. “So he told me he’s just going to fill some of those pools in, instead of buying lifts for all of them.”

That site manager isn’t alone. In a Pool & Spa News survey of hotel managers across the nation, approximately 25 percent stated that they planned to close one or more of their pools due to the prohibitively high cost of keeping them all in compliance.

While the survey size is too small to be statistically significant, the results still point to a potentially serious problem.

At press time, however, the deadline for compliance was May 21, a time frame that’s causing logistical headaches for service technicians.

“When we call the manufacturers to order these lifts, they’re telling us it’s going to be 30 days or more to get one shipped,” Santoro said. For public pools that have put off the expense of upgrading as long as possible, that’s a timeline that leaves very little wiggle room.

Still more frustrating to techs and their clients, though, is the seeming inflexibility of the requirements. For instance, many pools in urban areas are constructed above parking garages or other industrial spaces. Simply punching a hole in the deck and installing an anchor for the lift isn’t possible under those conditions, so bringing them into compliance is likely to constitute a major engineering project.

Other site owners, meanwhile, are bristling at the prospect of spending money to install new methods of entry  on pools that are highly unlikely to see much use — for instance, on apartment complex pools that aren’t frequently visited.

“My clients are going, ‘Why do we have to access lifts on all these pools?’” Santoro said. “And my answer to them is, “I can’t tell you that. Call your legislators.’”