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Salt Lake County shuts down 9 pools in 2 weeks due to chlorine issues

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Posted at 5:09 PM, Jul 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-02 19:09:56-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah -- Many families are cooling off at the pool for the holiday weekend, but do you know how safe the water is?

The Salt Lake County Health Department temporarily shut down several pools last month after finding issues.

Teresa Gray, Bureau Manager for the Water Quality and Hazards Waste Division, said they test each of the county’s 1,100 registered public pools monthly and also conduct inspections yearly.

Many are located at apartment complexes, while others are at hotels. Some violations they find are pretty minor and easy to fix. Others require more serious measures.

“There’s certain things that we’ll close them for immediately,” she explained. “The most common being not enough disinfectant or too much disinfectant in the pool.”

They see a lot of problems with chlorine levels. According to documents FOX 13 requested from the health department, nine pools were forced to shut down between June 8 and June 22.

Five of those pools didn’t have enough chlorine, or had no chlorine at all. Four kept their levels too high.

“If you don't have enough disinfectant in the water, the bacteria will grow,” Gray said.

That can lead to illness. On the flip side, she said, “if you have too much disinfectant, you can start to have skin irritations, your hair can start to bleach or to fall out.”

One set of pools that haven’t had any issues this summer—all 10 of the outdoor pools run by Salt Lake County.

Kids crowded Crestwood on a hot summer day, splashing in the water while lifeguards watched. One lifeguard stood on the sidelines, conducting tests, to make sure the levels stayed within the limits.

They’ve got strict guidelines.

First, Callie Birdsall explained, they clear the pool every hour.

“Every other hour when we do have the people get out of pool, we test the water,” she said.

During those periods, they encourage families to run children to the bathroom, to prevent accidents. They are also sticklers for what parents and kids do before they even dip their toes in the water.

“We encourage everybody to take cleansing shower before they get in the water,” she said.

Gray said every pool, county run or not, should have protocols in place to make sure they stay within the proper balance. Parents can ask questions to make sure the water their kids are swimming in is safe.

“They have to monitor the pool for the chlorine levels the beginning of each day, they have records on site," Gray said. "You can ask for those records on site."

Parents who notice unclean conditions at a pool, or who have any other concerns, should talk with a pool operator. She said they can also call the health department at 385-468-3862 and make a complaint.