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Dozens of Metro pools fail health department inspections

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A swimming pool is often the most popular place to cool off during a hot summer afternoon, but you may think twice about jumping in after you hear what the Channel 4 I-Team found.

The Metro Health Department has closed dozens of pools across Davidson County this summer for not doing what they're supposed to.

"If you're checking the pool like you're supposed to, and keeping up with the pool maintenance, it shouldn't happen," said Metro Health Department Environmentalist Tommy Eubanks.

The Channel I-Team obtained the health department's list of nearly 30 pools shuttered since Memorial Day for having no or low levels of chlorine.

They include pools at hotels, condos, apartment complexes and in neighborhoods. Also on the list was the splash pad at the Donelson YMCA.

Most of the facility managers corrected the problems and later re-opened, but the officials at the health department say they're still concerned that something that is so easily monitored is not getting done the way it should be.

"There are many dangers of swimming in a pool with no chlorine," Eubanks said. "A lot of the water-bourne illnesses are stomach ailments. They may think it's the hamburger they ate earlier in the day, when really they got sick from a swimming pool."

Still, there is no evidence that anyone has gotten sick from any of the pools.

The health department inspects every pool in Davidson County once a month except for pools that are in your backyard.

"It's always a surprise. They don't know when we're coming," said Eubanks.

Health department environmentalists like Eubanks are checking water chemistry, lifeguard certificates and making sure the pools are clean and in good repair on those inspections.

At the Donelson YMCA, their pools are in great shape, but they had to close the splash pad.

A YMCA operations manager said that's because smaller bodies of water are harder to maintain, and even the slightest amount of dirt can upset the pad's chemical balance.

He added they've corrected the problem, and they monitor all of the YMCA pools' water chemistry manually and electronically at least every two hours.

"As a pool operator, when we find that our pools are out of balance, we don't wait for the health department to come shut us down," said YMCA operations executive Joey Hassell. "When we find that we're out of balance, we take care of it. We shut it down. We get them balanced before we open them back up, so, again, for the most part, if it's going to happen we're going to catch it."

Hassell said swimmers should feel safe, but the bottom line from the health department is that those in charge of pools across Davidson County need to be checking their pools at least three times a day.

"That ought to be rule No. 1 to check for everybody, is having the proper amount of chlorine in the pool to kill all the bacteria and germs in the pool. That shouldn't happen, but it does from time to time," Eubanks said.

Experts have some simple things to keep in mind that should keep you from getting sick from swimming pool water. First, look at the pool and make sure it is clear with a sparkling, blue tint.

Next, smell the pool, and if you notice a strong chlorine smell, that's not a good thing. That means it's used up.

After that, listen to hear if the pool's equipment is working. You can also feel on the side of the pool to see if the water jets are running.

Finally, check the pool's most recent inspection report for yourself. The health department requires that it be posted for your viewing.

Also, some may be wondering about salt water pools. The health department says salt is turned into chlorine, and it is tested the same way.

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