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Dead bird, oily scum in apartment complex pools; state has little power to close

When Linda Jones needed therapy for her bad knees, she immediately went to her apartment complex’s hot tub.

“I would go every morning, religiously at 10 a.m.,” Jones said.

But, after a few week, she said large bumps started to pop up on her thighs.

“They were itchy, really itchy, there was a lot of them,” Jones said.

Jones visited the doctor who told her the hot tub caused her rash.

She said she told her apartment complex about the problem, but they didn’t do anything about it, so she filed a complaint with the Henrico County Health Department.

Thee person Jones spoke with at the health department “said to me, this happens more frequently than you think,” Jones said.

She said the county found that the problem was an old pipe.

“It wasn`t filtering so all of the germs and bacteria was just sitting there every day,” Jones said.

Through a public information act request, we uncovered dozens of complaints filed in Henrico County about dirty pools and hot tubs at apartment complexes.

They include everything from dead birds, dead frogs, algae, and oily scum to extremely high chlorine levels in the baby pool.

We showed the complaints to Doctor Jeff Bennett who is a pediatrician at KidMed.

“Ugh…what is that?” Dr. Bennett asked about a picture of a dead bird.

Dr. Bennett frequently treats kids with pool-related problems.

“They need to be kept clean, otherwise you can spread illnesses very easily. Specifically, diarrhea illnesses can be a real problem for communities,” Dr. Bennett said.

To that point, Virginia has fairly strict regulations when it comes to certain types of swimming pools in the state.

Julie Henderson with the Virginia Department of Health said the state requires annual inspections of the pools located at hotels, motels and campgrounds.

“We want to ensure anyone that is traveling through and visiting the state, and staying in hotels and motels, that they are being protected,” Henderson said.

But, what about the people who live here, like Macie Brady?

“We go to the pool every day,” Brady said.

We showed Brady, who has three children, the complaints too.

“That makes me want to throw up,” Brady said about the complaints.

The state does not require inspections at apartment complex, fitness center, and community pools in the commonwealth.

“At this point it`s just self-policed really,” Henderson said.

The state does require managers at those pools to post the chemical quality of the water daily, but health inspectors do not go around checking to make sure they’re up an accurate.

Instead, they rely on complaints, and even if they do find a problem, they don’t have much power.

“Let`s say you found extremely high chlorine levels. Could you shut down the pool?” CBS 6 investigative reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Henderson.

“It depends on the establishment. If it`s not a tourist establishment, and it`s just one where we`re making sure they`re monitoring chemicals then no,” Henderson said.

“Even if people are getting sick from the pool?” Hipolit asked.

“Not at this point, no,” Henderson replied.

Research posted on the Centers for Disease Control’s website states as many as 12 percent of inspected pools and 11 percent of inspected hot tubs in the country had to be closed immediately for serious health violations.

That number leaves Jones wanting change in her state.

“I had no idea people would be so lax for something as serious as that. I mean, I was on antibiotics for 14 days. That wasn`t fun. Something needs to be done,” Jones said.

The VDH conducts periodic reviews of its pool regulations, and they have a review coming up soon.

Henderson said they will consider adopting the CDC’s soon to be released Model Aquatic Health Code.

The MAHC would force all public pool operators to obtain a permit through the state, and give the state power to close a pool when a health hazard is discovered.

11 comments

  • Glen Allen

    “The MAHC would force all public pool operators to obtain a permit through the state, and give the state power to close a pool when a health hazard is discovered.” – Even if this is done, it could take days before you could get a State inspector to get to the complex, test the water, receive the results, and close the pool, and then you have no pool. Why not just see how/if you can get involved in the maintenance of the pool at your complex, I greatly doubt apartment complex managers plot and plan ways to get their residents sick. If you live in an apartment or condo complex, take some ownership, get involved, and help out. A hotel is different, you are paying to be pampered. Look at it this way, if you are paying $1,200 per month to live in an apartment, that works out to be around $40/night – how many $40/night hotels even have a pool. This mentality should not stop at the pool either, if you see trash on the lawn or in the parking lot, then pick it up – this is where you live. Yes, people should not be throwing it there, but unless you are a pig, why would you leave it there? Would you leave it in the lawn or driveway of a private house?

    • Jennifer

      Sir – You MUST be out of your mind to think people want to do extra labor (for free) to fix their own pools in a community they PAY to live in… There’s other occupations that get paid to do these things. That’s what jobs are for! The laws are garbage and People are obviously not doing their jobs!!!

  • NONE

    I live where the pictures of the pools are from and those pictures are from a couple of years ago when there was an issue with the filtration of the pools. Both of the pools pictured were closed and we were not allowed to swim or get near them. The complex made sure that the residents were safe. I don’t think this paints the picture that the complex where those pools are located cares about their residents and they do. The issue has been fixed and I go swimming all the time and I have NEVER had any issues with the pools here.

  • Ken Martin (@kenmartinsafety)

    Whenever you swim in any pool you need to shower before and after you get in. This is just common sense. Some people think a pool is a place to bathe. I’ll bet if you asked these people is they showered before and after getting in a pool or hot tub the answer would be no. Pool should be regulated to a point. However a pool can not be responsible for people failure to follow basic human hygiene procedures. People must have some personal responsibility and not rely on the government.

  • Robbie

    You can bet Bob McDonnell’s pool is covered in scum and slime. His friends and Republican party members are all dirty. You get a bunch of them together and you’d be better off swimming in a septic tank.

  • jody

    robbie why do you turn every story into a political thing.you seem to have a very lonely life.my guess is moms basement or divorced 2-3 times with a bunch of kids you dont pay for.its about a dirty pool

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