Health Department Inspections Exclude Sprayground Areas

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COLUMBIA - With summer weather bringing more and more people to outdoor pools, water quality inspections are important for swimmer safety. The Boone County Health Department inspects more than 100 pools once a month at unexpected times. The inspections analyze water quality of the facilities and life safety, but do not inspect spraygrounds water quality.

"Spraygrounds are not included in our swimming pool code right now, so that is why our environmental public health inspectors do not inspect those spraygrounds," Boone County Health Department representative Genalee Alexander said.

Spraygrounds owned by the city, like the Stephen's Lake Park spraygrounds, are inspected by the department of Parks and Recreation. The two commercial spraygrounds at the Country Club of Missouri-Columbia and Macher Swim School are checked by the management of each pool. The health department does not check additionally like they do at the pools.

Most spraygrounds' water comes from an underground tank and is chlorinated before being pumped through the system. Water quality specialist and MU extension assistant professor Bob Broz said although water in the spraygrounds is unlikely to harm people, it could still be a concern.

"There always is that segment of the population that because of whether they are taking some kind of medication that could lower their immunity, whether they've had some other illness and that's lowered their natural ability to ward off infection, then those are the people that we actually do the water testing for," Broz said.

The Country Club of Missouri pool manager Kristin Marema said there are ways for swimmers to be proactive in checking the water before cooling off.

"Can I see the bottom of the pool? Is it cloudy at all? Do we have an algae growth anywhere? That's something where if you go to a pool and you see any algae on the side of the pool or on the bottom of the pool, then you know that their chemicals aren't balanced," Marema said.

Some swimmers think health department inspections should include sprayground areas. "Test the water you guys, your children could be one of the kids who needs to come out and cool off," swimmer Christy Mcmahon said.

The health department said there have been no recent reports of illnesses or public health concerns due to contaminated pool water. In Missouri, the rate of reported waterborne illness Cryptosporidium cases was above the national rate for most years since 2005. The illness' symptoms include diarrhea and nausea and is spread through drinking water and contaminated recreational water.

The heath department has five employees inspecting more than 100 pool facilities. The agency currently has no plans to inspect the spraygrounds.