How safe are public pools in your community? News 3 investigates recent public pool inspections

Posted at 6:06 AM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 07:08:22-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Hitting the pool is a great way to beat the heat. But how do you know the water you and your kids are jumping into is safe?

The News 3 team of investigators went in search of specifics about how public pools are inspected in Hampton Roads.

For Willie Farmer, Norfolk's Huntersville pool isn't just a way to beat the heat this summer.

“It feels great,” Farmer told News 3. “I had a stroke, so, walking on water like this, it's like my physical therapy every week.”

The pool is one of three city public pools in Norfolk inspected every month by folks like Patrick Regan, a senior environmental health specialist with the Norfolk Department of Public Health.

“We have to hold them accountable for making sure they're doing the right thing and providing a safe atmosphere for their clients and customers,” Regan told News 3.

Inspections are also important for Virginia Beach's seven recreation center pools. One of their pools, Bayside, sees about 500 people a day in the summer.

“It's nice to have an extra set of eyes,” said Carol Fernheimer, Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation's coordinator for aquatics. “We're here 7 days a week, probably 12 hours a day. But, when they come in, they may see something that we haven't seen.”

So how is a city's pool typically inspected and maintained?

Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation officials showed News 3 investigates how they test their water. News 3 investigates also followed Regan along for his inspection of Norfolk's Huntersville pool.

First on the inspection was checking water quality. This includes chlorine and pH levels, which pool staff update every two hours for visitors to see.

Regan checked to make sure the chlorine and pH levels are in a safe range. If not, there's a potential for contaminated water, and could possibly be grounds for shutting down the pool.

During the inspection, Regan noted the level of chlorine at Huntersville pool was at 3.0, and the pH level was measured at 7.6.

Next on the inspection was checking water clarity.

Both Regan and Orville Nolen with the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health said it’s important to see the pool’s main drain. If the water is cloudy, something may be wrong.

“If you step back, and can't see that main drain, there's a problem,” Nolen said. “That would be grounds to ask them to shut the pool down and get everybody out until they can fix that.”

Regan also checked out the pump pressure and flow meters.

Overall, the Huntersville pool got an excellent score during Regan’s inspection.

“I give them 100 percent,” Regan said. “The water quality looks great. All of their parameters are in check.”

So what about other pools around Hampton Roads?

The News 3 team of investigators went through dozens of pool inspection records from all around the seven cities. These included records from last year and this year for all public pools in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton and Newport News.

No violations could be found in Newport News.

In Hampton, an inspection report from March 2022 for the Fort Monroe Community Center Pool showed the door for the chlorine room needed to be repaired and a color-indicator tube in the pool test kit needed to be cleaned or replaced. But, despite those minor notes, the permit was renewed, and Hampton officials tell us all of those issues have been addressed.

In Norfolk, the other two city pools had clean records.

The same went for the other six recreation center pools in Virginia Beach. The Princess Anne recreation center pool was closed from June 2021 through November 2021 because of renovations to repaint the ceiling. This closing was not related to an inspection.

So how can you help make sure these pools stay safe for you and others?

Experts say to make sure you shower before going into pools. If you have young kids, make sure they go to the bathroom before getting into the water and consider using swim diapers as well.

Also, you can keep tabs on the chemical readings and pool’s temperature when going to public pools around Hampton Roads.