INDIANAPOLIS — Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sees serious health and safety violations associated with public pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds.
Since 2015, at least 208 outbreaks were reported to the CDC. That's at least 3,646 cases of illness, 286 hospitalizations and 13 deaths.
The illnesses included a gastrointestinal illness; Legionella, which causes Legionnaires' disease; severe pneumonia; and Pontiac fever, a milder illness with flu-like symptoms.
The Marion County Public Health Department said it's difficult to measure, unless reported to them by a doctor, which happens a handful of times.
However, inspectors are busy, working to prevent any illness.
The MCPHD inspects more than 900 private and public pools year-round.
“We do close pools daily, unfortunately. It is not common, but it is about 10% of the time," said pool specialist Michael Furnas, who tests pH levels and disinfectant concentration, like chlorine and bromine. "So, every day, unfortunately, I have to close about one pool in the county or issue an emergency notice, a violation which is a warning where we allow them to self-close and fix the issues. Then, we recheck in the following days."
Typically, the pools close for about 24 hours.
Often, it's an easy fix, like not enough - or too much chlorine, which can lead to skin irritation or eye-burning, even bleaching swimsuits or hair.
When the water is too cloudy, Furnas said it typically means something isn't working the way it should. It can also be dangerous if you can't see the bottom of the pool.
The health department also requires a weekly bacteria test to be reported.
Furnas said you can probably spot some simple things, like the quality of the water and if the pool deck looks clean at your pool or on vacation.
“Checking to make sure the safety equipment looks good, the water looks clear, basic things like that, because that can indicate if they are taking care of those things, they are most likely also maintaining their water well," Furnas said. "So, I would be happy to get into a pool or hot tub on a vacation."
If you notice a red flag, report it to the local health department so they can investigate.
The number people can call about public pool concerns is 317-221-2270. The health department inspects public and semi-private pools, such as neighborhoods/HOAs – those that require a license. They do not inspect private pools, such as those at a residence.
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