May 28 2019

Letter: Board of Health Explains Regulations and Common Myths about Swimming Pools

The following is a letter by Burlington Health Agent Marlene Johnson. She is a Certified Pool Operator and inspects Burlington’s public and semi-public swimming pools:



When stepping in to cool off in a swimming pool or relax in the spa at the local sports club or outdoor park, you’re probably not thinking about whether or not there are regulations to decrease your risk of illness and injury – but there are.  The local Board of Health enforces state regulations for public and semi-public swimming pools, wading pools, and spas or hot tubs. These include indoor and outdoor pools found at clubs, parks, swim schools, hotels, condominiums, and apartment complexes.  They do not include private pools at residential homes.

The Burlington Board of Health inspects these pools twice a year to ensure minimum standards are met.  The inspector looks at things such as disinfectant (chlorine, bromine, etc.) and other chemical levels; disinfectant logs and whether they are complete and up to date; whether proper safety equipment is on site;  first aid kits; and, if lifeguards are utilized, that they have proper credentials. Each property with a public or semi-public pool is required to have a certified pool operator who is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the pool as well as the training of pool staff.  Certified pool operators must participate in a two day course and pass an examination every five years. Board of Health inspectors have also been trained and credentialed as certified pool operators.

Below are some common myths about swimming pools.

· It is not necessary to take a shower or bath prior to using the pool. Sweat, body oils, cosmetics left on the body enter the pool and may lower the level of disinfectant in the pool. Disinfectant is important to protect bathers from germs.

· Since a pool is disinfected, it is OK to swallow pool water. Pool water is completely exposed to the elements especially organic compounds. Heavy usage, low disinfectant levels allow germs to grow and swallowing germs could cause illness.

· A strong chlorine (or bromine) odor means a clean and healthy pool.  A strong odor of chlorine means there is a high level of chloramines (or bromamines in a bromine pool) which are contaminates. This odor may indicate a low level of disinfectant in the pool.

· Keeping a pool clean and healthy is the sole responsibility of the lifeguard or pool manager. Keeping a pool clean and health is also the responsibility of the bathers. Bather’s should: take a cleansing shower or bath before using the pool; do not use the pool when sick;  and make sure young children use swim diapers if necessary and take children to the restroom every hour so there are no “accidents” in the pool. 

For more information on how you can “swim healthy” visit the CDC’s website.


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