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Health inspectors explain how public pools tested

Local business owner offers tips for private pool owners

Before pools can open to the public, an inspector from the county’s environmental health department must inspect the area. Public pools in Iowa are now permitted to be open to the public, with restrictions. (Union file photo)
Before pools can open to the public, an inspector from the county’s environmental health department must inspect the area. Public pools in Iowa are now permitted to be open to the public, with restrictions. (Union file photo)

With summer officially started local pools are opening back up to the public. However, before they can, a staff member from the county’s environmental health department must test the water.

Dan Miller, registered sanitarian with the Jefferson County Environmental Health Department said inspections on public pools are mandatory once a year. When performing a pool inspection, there are a multitude of areas the inspector checks.

The first one, he said, is management. All public pools must have a certified operator and a license by the state. Records must be kept because the pool needs to be tested every four hours and hot tubs every two hours. Once a month bacterial tests for both the pool and spa need to be sent to the state lab for testing.

Jennine Wolf, Washington County Environmental Health Director, said the tests are required in all public pools in the state. The tests are designed to protect the public from the transmission of disease and provide a safe, healthy recreational aquatic space.

Water quality, chlorine levels and the PH are also tested, he said. A check for equipment such as a vacuum, test kit and safety measures such as slip resistance on the decks, cleared drinks and markings around the pool to identify the depths of the water are also performed.

Other safety equipment required is a first aid kit, a phone and proper fencing and gates if the pool is outdoors. The deck around the pool as well as the diving structures, slides and dressing rooms are also inspected.

Wolf said the main differences between inspecting an indoor pool and an outdoor pool are signage and types of chemicals used. Because there is generally no lifeguard on duty in indoor pools, signs need to be placed to notify the public. In outdoor pools, inspectors check for the use of cyanuric acid, an agent used to help protect the chlorine in the water from deteriorating under the heat of the sun, she said.

Miller said pools were ordered to close until June 12 and many are not open because of the tight turn around. Pools are recommended to operate at 50 percent capacity to keep social distancing in effect and disinfecting and sanitizing the space is to occur more regularly.

For those who will be utilizing private pools this summer, Curt Crane, owner of Fox Pools of Mt. Pleasant, INC. says cleaning the pool regularly is one of the most important steps.

“(The water) should be crystal clear. You should be able to tell whether a dime is heads or tails in the deep end,” he said.

Crane suggests purchasing a good vacuum designed for pools and to clean the area at least once a week, depending on weather. Test kits are available as well to determine if the water is safe for use.

The kit has a strip of paper that is dipped into the water and turns a color. The user then needs to compare the paper to the guide on the test kit to determine if it is safe to use.

Pools can be a lot to keep up with, Crane said, and suggests anyone looking to purchase buy from a reputable dealer with experience and knowledge to assist.