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Department keeps pools safe

AUGUST 11, 2008

About 6 percent of the Coachella Valley's public pools were closed in the past year for violations, the Riverside County department of Environmental Health reports. Officials call the figure average.

Low chlorine levels, missing or broken light fixtures, and improperly functioning gates and drain covers are among the most common problems inspectors run into. “Green pools are the worst thing,” Environmental Health Specialist Brian McGowan said. These green-tinted waters could be the perfect environment for growth of dangerous E-coli bacteria, parasites, black mold and could become a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may carry viruses such as West Nile, he said. “The ones that scare me are the pools where the turbidity is so bad you can't see the bottom. I've pulled out lawn chairs before,” said supervisor of environmental health Michael K. Garcia, who works out of the Indio office.

Garcia said if the bottom of a pool is not visible, it's immediately shut down. If owners refuse to correct the problem, health officials can issue a rare 48-hour drain order in which pool water will be removed, he said. “We would never keep anything open that compromises public safety,” said Steve VanStockum, department director for Environmental Health.

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