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No chlorine, other violations shut down Wake County pools

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The CDC says as many as 58 percent of public pools have traces of fecal contamination. The CDC says as many as 58 percent of public pools have traces of fecal contamination.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Well before that first plunge under water, public pools in North Carolina must first pass inspection.  In Wake County, 42 environmental health specialists oversee thousands of restaurants, water sources and more than 1,100 public swimming pools.  They inspect outdoor pools at the beginning of swimming season and then, just like restaurants, they perform surprise inspections throughout summer.

We recently joined Wake County Environmental Health Specialist Terry Chappell as he performed an inspection on a pool in North Raleigh.  Chappell examines the pool and surrounding areas for any health and safety violations including side railings, exterior fencing, even emergency phones.

Inspectors also test chlorine and pH levels.  Pool operators in N.C. are required complete a pH test once a day and twice a day for pools in Wake County.  The pH balance should measure between 7.2 and 7.8 on the pH scale, inspectors say.  Chlorine should be measurable at least one part per million.

A pH balance that's too low or too high could cause water to become cloudy, algae growth, and eye irritation.  A lack of chlorine could allow harmful bacteria, like e-coli, to spread. 

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found as many as 58 percent of public pools have traces of fecal contamination.

"It could spread very quickly.  You could have 100 people ill pretty quickly," Chappell said.

The North Raleigh pool we visited had chlorine and pH at acceptable levels, but other nearby pools recently failed inspection. Those pools were forced to shut down temporarily for lack of chlorine and other violations that could put public health at risk.

On July 10, the pool at the Manor Six Forks Apartments in Raleigh had no chlorine according to an inspection report.  Chlorine was present during a follow up visit and the pool was allowed to reopen.

It was the same story on June 26 at the Falls Creek Apartments pool in Raleigh.  Again, the inspection report showed the pool had no chlorine.

The Camden Lake Pine Cabana Pool in Apex didn't have enough chlorine on June 27.

Meanwhile, on July 10, inspectors forced the Scotts Mill pool in Apex to close because the pH balance was off.

All those pools have since been re-inspected and are now in compliance and back open.  Chappell says he'll also order a pool to close if the water is too cloudy, the emergency land line phone isn't working properly, or if child-proof gate latches are broken.

"Issues like that pop up from time to time and it happens to everybody," he said.

Wake County posts the most recent inspections for public pools online.

Derick Waller

Derick is a reporter for WNCN covering crime, education, politics and just about everything in between. He has a knack for adapting to any story and consistently delivers information quickly across multiple platforms. More>>

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