9 Investigates: Failed pool inspections

by: Catherine Bilkey Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

It’s hot out, and the water looks inviting, but there can be a lot of bacteria lurking in the pool.
 
"Think about where bacteria and most organisms are going to grow," Dr. David Rentz, with Novant Health, said. "It's going to be a hot, wet environment. So, a pool is a perfect place for that."
 
Rentz told Eyewitness News that's why chlorine is so important
 
"It actually breaks up the cell walls of a lot of bacteria and viruses," Rentz said. "So, it will actually kill them off. And it's not just the chlorine level. It [has] to be at a certain PH to actually prevent growth and kill all these bacteria."
 
For the general population, the infections picked up at a pool are more of a nuisance than anything. They can be treated with antibiotics, but for some people an unclean pool can be very dangerous.
 
"For someone who is immune-compromised, any sort of infection could have dire consequences," Rentz said.
 
That's part of the reason why pools have to be inspected, but Channel 9 went through hundreds of pages of inspections here in Mecklenburg County and found hotels and apartment buildings with serious issues, including inadequate chlorine.
 
"We see pools with zero chlorine more often than we'd like to," Environmental Health supervisor Tim Dutcher said.
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Dutcher is in charge of Mecklenburg County's pool inspectors. State law requires them to inspect year-round pools twice a year and shut them down if they're deemed unsafe. They also correct critical water issues on site. And they see a lot of issues.
 
In Uptown, an inspector measured zero chlorine at the Aloft hotel pool in January and saw mildew on the skimmers.  At the nearby Omni, the chlorine was 60 percent below the required level last August
 
Some hotels have repeat violations. At the Residence Inn on Piedmont Row, the inspector's report from October said the pool water was cloudy, and there was scum on the pool wall tiles. The inspector reported the same problems in March. The Homewood Suites on North Tryon had zero measured chlorine last June, and when the pool was inspected again in August, the chlorine was still below standards.  In Huntersville: an inspector measured no chlorine at the Comfort Suites on Boulder Park in September and March. All of the pools were either temporarily shut down or forced to correct the issues on site.
 
We also found inspection reports from high end apartments that had problems.  The Hamptons at South Park has a pool that tested for 50 percent less chlorine than required in January.  Management there told Channel 9 it was corrected immediately and they take that very seriously.
 
Eyewitness News contacted the corporate offices of the Charlotte and Huntersville hotels.  The Omni said their most recent inspection in November was perfect. Eyewitness News checked, and it was. They also said their "certified engineering staff conduct testing of the pool maintenance on a regular basis." Management for the Residence Inn said, "The hotel is not being negligent… we will not be in this position again." No one else would answer Channel 9's questions, but our team will check to see if their scores improve when inspectors come back.
 
Click here for information on inspection records.
 
Response from Omni:
"Our most recent inspection showed zero demerits. Our certified engineering staff conduct testing of the pool maintenance on a regular basis. We are looking forward to a great summer at the pool at Omni Charlotte Hotel."

Response from McKibbon Hotel Management, the management company for the Residence Inn (Piedmont Row):
"10/25/13 Inspection:  What is not noted, is that the pool was closed down (by the hotel) early that morning before the inspector showed up. The team had noted when doing the pool inspection/chemical readings which is done every morning and afternoon, the pool was not to standard and naturally the high level of cloudiness confirmed such. The inspector however was still obliged to do the inspection but noted that when we were done remediating the pool cloudiness and residue issues, they would come back. The pool was back up and running that same day. A very small amount of white residue on the tiles was cleaned immediately and we determined this was bromine build up and not dirt.
03/25/13 Inspection: The pool was not anywhere as cloudy as the 10/25 inspection and the chemical readings were all fine. The pool water was clear enough to see the drain per the requirements, but the screws on the drain were not clearly visible. The screws were not something we were looking at per se, but agreed that being able to see the screws on the drain is a critical component for safety inspections and agreed to find a way to ensure this was achieved. The hotel took water samples to Leslies Pools to get some advice and they suggested adding a Clarifier to the water which we started using and have since continued to use and the pool is clearer than ever and not the screws are clearly visible daily. I want to note that the chemical readings were all good. Again, the small amount of residue on the tiles was cleaned immediately and since we knew it was bromine, we replaced the bromine feeder to ensure this build up did not happen.
The hotels engineering staff are pool certified and anytime an issue such as cloudiness and or chemical readings reflect any concern over our guests safety and wellbeing, we close the pool and remediate the issue right then. The team has got all the systems in place, the concerns addressed and the further attention to detail added. I can assure you the hotel is not being negligent and I am certain the inspectors will highlight the diligence of the team to ensure we comply fully with all requirements, for good reason. We have plans in place to ensure that all items and not only bromine build up and cloudiness are complied with to ensure we have perfect inspections which are our standard. I can assure you we will not be in this position again."