CHARLOTTE, NC - Mecklenburg County made big changes to the pool health inspection process this year after the health department caught criticism last year.
Last summer, a Channel 9 investigation found more than 300 pools at apartment complexes, hotels, and neighborhoods were allowed to open without an inspection. The health department was also criticized for granting permits to pools that were shut down the previous year for serious violations that weren't re-inspected.
Inspectors used to be able to give a pool a permit to open as long as it was inspected within the next 60 days. This year, Mecklenburg County Commissioners approved changes which demand that every pool must be inspected before opening.
Diana Greene’s four young children, aged 2,4,5, and 6 years old are four big reasons she wants to be sure a pool is safe. With so much warm weather lately, she has been bringing them to the Keith Family YMCA. Its outdoor pools opened two weeks ago. While that pool passed its inspection, there are still hundreds across the county that have not.
The county added more staff to help with the new inspection process. Currently, Mecklenburg County has 46 staff conducting season pool inspections for 2018. Each person has been assigned to 23-27 pools. The county hired a Senior Environmental Health Specialist to help with inspection process. There are also six staff members who can provide backup and surge capacity. They county also added another Summer Environmental Assistant. It is a position typically held by a college student. They are tasked with re-inspecting pools that have permits. They will start inspecting pools in June.
Pool inspections started April 2. Each pool operator must contact the county to set up an inspection time. As of May 4, Mecklenburg county said 981 pools have applied and paid to receive an inspection. Out of those 981 pools, 481 pools were inspected and received a permit. There were 79 pools that did not pass first inspection. There were 40 pools that still didn't have permits. The county said it hasn't received an application or payment from 97 pools. The county said some pools may choose not to open.
Chopper Nine flew over some of those pools that had not opened yet due to a failed inspection. At the "Ravencrest" neighborhood in south charlotte, records show an inspector denied a permit for the pool because the "emergency phone was inoperable during visit".
Channel 9 saw both pools at Steele Creek South apartments were closed after an inspector observed, "buoy rope very thin and frayed ... gates not self-closing/self-latching..." and the pH at the wrong level.
At the Auston Woods Apartment Homes, one was denied a permit because the inspector noted there was "no extra basket for pump provided". The complex said it corrected the problem and both pools are now open.
The complex sent residents an email warning them to stay out of the failed pool. It said in part, "...any swimming in that pool could cause an issue with our receiving a permit."
In researching this story, Channel 9 found that unless management sends out a message, there's no way to know if a pool failed inspection. Only pools listed in the county's online portal under this year’s date, received permits. There is no way to tell if a pool failed its inspection or hasn't been inspected yet.
A Mecklenburg County spokesperson said there are no plans to change the system. Still, County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour backs the new pool inspection process. He said it should make more parents, like Greene, feel safer, even if pools open later in the season.
“I know everyone wants to open their pool this weekend, and we are working fast and furiously to make that happen,” said Ridenhour.
“I’m glad they're taking steps to make it a safe environment and ready for families, because we do come in and expect that it is ready,” said Greene.
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