Columbia Preps Pools to Ensure a Safe Swim Season

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COLUMBIA - The swim season for three local public pools began Wednesday, but before a single step was taken off a diving board, pool managers and health inspectors took their own steps to ensure the readiness of pools.

Columbia's health department inspects nearly 150 swimming pools and spas each year for structural integrity, disinfectant levels, the pH level, warning signs and safety equipment. The facilities are also checked for cleanliness and maintenance.

Columbia Aquatics Manager Janel Twehous says actual inspections only last 15-30 minutes, but pool operators take months to de-winterize pools in preparation for summertime. That may include power washing and repainting the pools even before filling them with water.

"You have to basically clean everything out," Twehous said. After that, most of the facilities are filled with water a week before inspection and opening. The pool at the Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center, Columbia's largest public outdoor swimming facility, holds nearly 400,000 gallons of water.

Last year, 53,461 people visited Columbia public pools. There were also 83 rescues performed by lifeguards.

Pool inspectors check for buoys, markers within the pool to show depth and clarity to ensure swimmer safety. If the pool appears clear, that denotes cleanliness and it ensures that if a swimmer is in trouble, lifeguards can spot the swimmer and react quickly.

Inspectors will continue to check pools monthly during the summer swim season.