As you and your family get ready to go swimming this summer, you may not realize the water can make you sick. This is where the health department steps in to make sure you have peace of mind while taking a dip. It has seven inspectors who cover thousands of facilities across Hamilton County, including around 350 pools. Inspectors are checking them out almost anywhere you might go.
"All the sports facilities like the YMCA, Sports Barn, or any other privately owned sports facility where it's for the public," says Department of Environmental Health program manager Lowe Wilkins. "You have your sub-division pools. We have 103 hotels in Chattanooga."
He checks the clarity to make sure anyone underwater could be seen. He also ensures the pools have been cleaned, chlorinated, and disinfected. If pH levels aren't just right, it could spoil your day and it could shut down your favorite pool.
"You may have a rash. It could affect your eyes. It may also affect you as far as your respiratory system," explains Wilkins. "We will temporarily close the pool until that disinfectant level is re-established."
Although the waters aren't tested for specific diseases, Wilkins enforces strict rules if any problems arise. The Health Department will receive reports from doctors and hospitals if they think someone got sick from certain contaminants at a pool.
"When an illness is entered into the water, it's usually by a human being and usually would be through a fecal discharge that would be in the pool. Immediately we would require the pool to be closed if that occurs," states Wilkins.
Mold and algae can form within 24 hours without chlorine, so it's important for pools to be maintained between inspections. Wilkins also says it's a good idea for you to do your own inspection before taking a dip.
"If you see algae or something like that growing in the pool, then report that to the health department or to the management," urges Wilkins.
If lifeguards are required at a facility, Wilkins makes sure the proper number of lifeguards are present and they all have certifications. He also inspects safety equipment.
Inspection results are public record and should be displayed at the pool's office. If you have a question about the cleanliness of a pool you want to visit, call the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department at 423-209-8110.