Before your next dip in a public pool, be wary of low disinfectant levels

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Before you go for a dip in a swimming pool, do you ever think about what you'll be swimming in?

Pools that don't maintain proper disinfection levels, or access to safety equipment, put swimmers at risk for injury and illness. Cleveland 19 went combing through pool inspection reports from Northeast Ohio's top tourist destination, the Sandusky area, and found several properties with critical and repeat violations.

The Erie County Health Department keeps tabs on about 170 pools and spas, which they try to inspect at least twice a year.

"Our population pretty much triples if not quadruples in a matter of months over the summer so that is why we really concentrate on the summer months, getting out to these pools," said Director of Environmental Health, Craig Ward.

Heavy usage and frequent turnover puts these pools at particular risk. He says they look for violations that could lead to illness or injury.

The most common have to do with low disinfectant levels.

"Any kind of pathogen, bacteria, viral that could be happening in a pool, that's why you have to keep the disinfection up.  You hear about things like cryptosporidium, which we are always watching out for," he said.

At America's Best Value on Milan Road, the pool was temporarily closed for a host of violations and repeat critical violations during an inspection and two required re-inspections this June, including pH outside of acceptable range (that's important because it maximizes the effects of disinfectant), a non-functioning flow meter, which circulates the disinfectant, no flotation device, no operational records for the last 2 years and a total lack of bromine.

"It's not chlorine but still has the same disinfection to keep those pathogens from producing in the pool and kill them off," said Ward.

At the Baymont Inn and Suites their operational records weren't being maintained either. There wasn't enough rope on their flotation device and there was zero bromine detected, a critical violation.

The inspection at the Budget Host on Cleveland lists one critical violation: the chlorinator was disconnected. That pool was voluntarily shut down.

And over at the Comfort Inn on Milan inspectors had to make three visits in about year to their outdoor pool which had to be temporarily closed. They had multiple critical violations for water clarity and a zero chlorine reading, plus a zero reading on the flow meter, and two safety gates propped open

"The thought there is if they open up to a parking lot they don't want a child wandering in and potentially drowning," Ward said.

Health Inspectors were at the Sleep Inn on Milan four times in the last year between their pool and spa. Critical Violations include an SVRS (safety vacuum relief system) that was turned off or removed. Those are there to prevent someone from being sucked in to the drain at the bottom of the pool.

"It could be a complete drowning hazard or some kind of entanglement hazard if it happens to your hair or something like that," said Ward.

The automatic chemical controller that wasn't functioning properly. The inspection also noted bad ventilation, and unacceptable chemical levels. The pool was voluntarily to be closed until corrections could be made.

Water clarity and temperature have never been recorded at the Howard Johnson Express on Cleveland Road, according to the health department. The pool was temporarily closed last month because of an SVRS critical violation, plus a non-functioning flow meter and emergency phone.  All were corrected days later.

If you're ready to take a dip in an unfamiliar pool you can add something to your swim bag to see exactly what you'll be swimming in. Test strips, like AquaChek, will give you results in about 15 seconds for things like free and total chlorine, pH and bromine levels. You can get those at pool supply stores or online.

Ward says if you have questions or concerns about a pool, you can also ask the pool operator to see their records, and report any concerns to the health department who can come out for an inspection based on a complaint. 

You can request the latest inspection reports from the local health department if you're curious about how any pool is being maintained.

Download the Cleveland 19 News app

Copyright 2017 WOIO. All rights reserved.