KOLD INVESTIGATES: Who's keeping swimming pools safe in Pima County

KOLD INVESTIGATES: Who's keeping swimming pools safe in Pima County

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The heat in southern Arizona makes a dip in the pool a popular option for staying cool.

Varying degrees of testing and inspections are meant to keep the more than 2,500 public and semi-public pools in Pima County safe.

There were 568 pool closures across the county in 2016, according to Pima County Health Department records. With 4,450 inspections, that leaves a 12.8 percent failure rate.

That's close to the national average of 12.5 percent reported by the Centers for Disease Control, according to PCHD Emergency Preparedness and Communications Manager Aaron Pacheco.

A closure is not final.

It simply means the area is unsafe and will only reopen when corrections are made to the pool, water or the surrounding area.

Staff at public pools, like those owned and operated by Pima County or city of Tucson, are required to test the chlorine and pH levels of the pool once every hour they are open, according to Environmental Health Specialist Mary Steffen-Deaton.

She said those test are kept in a log and they're part of the pool's monthly inspection by one of the 26 field inspectors who check on pools around the county.

Semi-public pools, like those owned and operated by apartment complexes, hotels or homeowners associations, are required to be inspected once a year, but Pacheco said the county's expectation is twice a year.

The chemical tests for semi-public pools aren't as frequent either, with only two tests daily. Steffen-Deaton said those results are logged as well.

A lack of proper pool chemicals or a pH imbalance are common causes for closure, Pacheco said.

There are just as many, if not more, potential issues outside of the water that could cause a pool to close.

Steffen-Deaton pointed out requirement after requirement for management to meet in order to pass an inspection. They included:

  • Certifications for lifeguards, if they're on duty
  • Two lifeguards per public pool, plus additional ones for every 25 swimmers
  • A first-aid kit and stretcher or backboards in case of an emergency
  • Securely fastened railings around the pool
  • Proper tile markings on the edges and bottom of the pool to indicate depth and steps
  • Fencing around the pool that's at least 6-foot high with gaps no wider than 4 inches
  • A self-latching gate to prevent potential drownings
  • Working filtration systems to show water returning to the pool is clean
  • Accessible life-saving devices like a shepherd's hook and a life preserver

Inspecting pools is just one part of her job description. Steffen-Deaton said she balances the pool visits between hospitals, hotels, restaurants and mobile home parks.


Look at the inspection reports for the past two months on the Pima County Permitting and Inspections page. Look for "Consumer Health & Food Safety monthly report."

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