Pool inspections find glass violations

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia/Boone County Department of Health and Human Services inspects more than 200 outdoor pools during summer months.

These range from community pools to apartment complexes to hotel pools.

This year the health department updated its codes for new pools. The changes include regulations for the range of chemicals and mandatory emergency phone access.

Recently three apartment complex pools in Columbia were shut down due to inspectors finding glass in the pool area.

"There might not be a risk that you see, but what we're trained to do is to look for the possibility of the risk," environmental health specialist Chelsie Chambers said. "We're trying to prevent somebody from getting hurt or prevent someone from getting sick and if we're not doing our job correctly then that's when that happens."

Chambers shut down the Brookside Townhomes and the Domain at Columbia pool.

"When I was there doing my inspection I noted glass bottle caps and upon further inspection we found glass shards, so itty bitty pieces of glass in the pool floor, the pool deck, so that's when you worry about risking someone cutting their foot or cutting something else and then blood being in the pool area and in the pool and then its a whole another issue," Chambers said.

Chambers said having three pools close for glass is a very high number.

"I've been working at the health department now for almost five years and this is the very first time I ever had to close a pool for glass," Chambers said.

All three pools that were closed were required to drain the pools and clean the decks.

Chambers said the price to drain a pool varies based on size but one apartment complex told her it would cost around $1500.

Chambers said the glass problem is usually only at apartment pools. Many of the community pools in the area do not allow glass containers on their property, like the one at the Albert-Oakland Aquatic Center.

"There's really no good way to find all the glass, you can never be sure that you find all the glass. So it's very likely that if a kid jumped in could slice their foot open on the bottom," said Albert-Oakland head manager Zachary Hogan. "It's just a huge, huge money burner if it happens."

Hogan said if the community pool closed due to safety violations it would fix the problems, no matter the cost.

"If the pool closed we still have to pay for general upkeep, so we'd still have to pay people to come in and clean, still be paying to keep the chemicals up to date because we have to run those everyday," Hogan said.

Hogan said the pool makes around $1000-$2000 a day, but a lot of that goes to pay for lifeguards. He said if the pool had to be drained it would set back future expenditures like purchasing new umbrellas for the next season.

While glass has been a major issue recently, Chambers said inspectors' main concern is with the chemicals.

"When the chemicals are off that's when we really get worried, because that's when people can really get sick," Chambers said.

Chambers said pool inspectors are focused on safety and sanitation. Inspections include looking at signage, gates, ladders, and chemicals. These inspections can take up to 15 minutes to an hour.

Pools are required to complete their own daily chemical checks.

Hogan said the Albert-Oakland Aquatic Center runs chemical tests every two hours.

Chambers said violations and closures of the pool is per inspector. Some violations can be fixed on the spot and don't result in closure of the entire pool.

Chambers also does inspections based on complaints. Whether it is a routine or a complaint check all inspections are a surprise to the pools.

Chambers said there is not a season that goes without at least one pool closure.