DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - As it heats up around southwest Georgia, many people are flocking to public swimming pools to cool down. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may have swimmers thinking twice before they dive in.
The CDC's annual report in May revealed that 80 percent of the more than 48,000 public pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds tested in the study had at least one safety or hygiene violation. One in eight of those site was closed immediately due to the severity of the violation.
In Dougherty County, environmental health inspectors with the Georgia Department of Public Health are required to inspect public water venues at least twice each pool season. James C. Davis, Environmental Health County Manager for Dougherty County, says they aim for three times a year, going through a checklist of items, among those safety and checking the chemical balance of the water.
Chlorine and pH levels must fall between a certain range to keep swimmers both safe from bacteria and comfortable.
"There are certain bacteria that can actually make you sick, and that bacteria will multiply in the pool so that chlorine level has to be adjusted," said Davis. "One, in order to effectively kill the bacteria. And you also don't want to get it too high where it starts to burn the swimmer."
In recent inspections, the department found 10 violations in the pools and other water venues in Dougherty County.
Six of those were chemical and didn't have chlorine levels within the required range. One water venue that didn't include any chlorine at all. Another was reported for calcium hardness, and one didn't have proper signage. Another was found to have inadequate toilet facilities.
Davis says pools are shut down until they can fix the violation, which is usually done within 24 hours.
He adds all public water venues in Dougherty County have fixed all found violations and have been cleared to open, except for a spa at a gym for an expired permit.
Pool operators are encouraged to check their chlorine levels at least twice during the day, but the CDC encourages swimmers to buy chlorine test strips, which can be found at a local hardware or housewares store, to personally test the waters before they take a dip.
Davis encourages anyone visiting a public pool this summer to shower before and after you enter, and refrain from using the pool as a restroom to keep the waters safe for everyone.