Whether you're in a warm climate year round or gearing up for the summer months, a warm, sunny day equates to citizens looking to cool off with a nice swim. Yet, without the proper precautions in place, your citizens may be swimming in unsanitary pool water or bathing at an unsafe aquatic complex.
As a local health department, you must have a game plan in place for modern pool inspections to ensure community-members are safe as they take a dip in the local public pool, hot tub, water park, or any other public-facing aquatic facility. Follow this guide for the ultimate modern pool inspection strategy and details about how government software can help.
Why Should Public Pool Inspections Be a Key Priority for Local Health Departments?
Failure to monitor and maintain local pools could result in your citizens swimming in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Variables such as filtration, circulation, water chemical inputs, etc. all contribute to how safe public pools are to swim in. Aquatic facilities also need to consider disinfection tactics if toxins such as human waste get into the water, and also need to keep public areas like spas, locker rooms, equipment, and other facilities safe and sanitary. Additionally, construction of facilities surrounding a pool like decks, spas, lighting, etc. play a key role in safety and functionality.
Your local health department owes it to your community to keep pools and related facilities as safe and sanitary as possible for citizens of all ages, and ensure that new pool construction abides by legislative policy.
Follow along for actionable tips for keeping public pools and related aquatic facilities up to federal, state, and local code standards.
What Are the Key Federal Policies and Best Practices Pertaining to Pool Construction & Inspections?
The federal standards for local public health directors and their health department staff to abide by at the Center for Disease Control’s Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) which was last updated in 2018. The goal of this health code is to act, “as guidance for the purpose of assisting state and local health departments, aquatic facility inspection programs, building officials, the aquatics sector, and other interested parties in improving the health and safety at public aquatic facilities.”
Here are key takeaways from the legislation as it pertains to construction, maintenance, and inspection of pools and related aquatic facilities:
Construction of Pool Facilities
The MAHC’s aquatic facility design standards and construction applies to, “construction of a new aquatic facility or aquatic venue or substantial alteration to an existing [facility or venue]” and require:
1. Construction Plan & Design Report Submittal
Construction plans are to be submitted by the aquatic facility contractor, “to provide sufficient clarity to indicate the location, nature, and extent of the work proposed,” and, “show in detail that it will conform to the provisions of [MAHC] code and relevant laws, ordinances, rules, and regulations… to protect the health and safety of the facility’s bathers and patrons.”
Plans must also include a design report highlighting:
- Names / Addresses: “Plans shall include the name, address, and contact information for the owner, designer, and builder if available at the time of submission.”
- Site Information: Plans must highlight, “ indicating at a minimum the location of all utilities, wells, topography, natural water features, and potential sources of surface drainage and pollution which may affect the proposed aquatic facility.”
- Plot Plans: Plans shall include a site plot plan including:
- A general map and detailed scaled drawings of the aquatic facility site plan or floor plan with detailed locations of the aquatic venues and aquatic features
- The locations of all water supply facilities, sources of drinking water, public or private sewers, and relative elevations of paved or other walkways and the equipment room floor shall be shown on the plans with the elevations of storm and sanitary sewer inverts and street grade.
- Scaled and Dimensional Drawings + Area Design
- Aquatic Venue Attributes: “Detailed scaled and dimensional drawings for each individual AQUATIC VENUE shall include location and type of:
- Suction outlets
- Overflow gutters or devices
- Designed pool water elevation
- Aquatic features such as ladders, stairs, diving boards, slides, and play features
- Pool markings and
- Surface materials”
- Recirculation & Treatment Design highlighting filters, tanks, and other components that keep water safe to swim in.
- Equipment Room Design
- Chemical Storage Space Design
- Hygiene Facility Design for, ”dressing rooms, lockers and basket storage, showers, lavatory, toilet fixtures, and diaper changing stations.”
The building of the new / updated aquatic facility shall not take place until the construction plan is approved by the health department, code enforcement department, or other relevant Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) approves it and validates that it meets national, state, and local code.
For more specifics around aquatic facility drawings, area design, and other key technical components of the construction plan submittal, see page 24 of the 2018 MAHC Code.
2. Facility Operation, Maintenance, & Inspection
Local governments have an obligation to make sure that local public pools and aquatic facilities are maintained in a way that keeps operations safe for your citizens. Doing so requires a modern local code enforcement strategy and regular inspections.
Here is everything to know about the MAHC’s guidelines for operating, maintaining, and inspecting local pools and related equipment:
Pool facility owners are required to get a permit from the relevant local government department before opening publicly. An additional permit is also needed for any new construction or substantial aquatic facility alterations.
Before the local health department or code department approves the issuance of a permit, the facility must be reviewed and in compliance with all MAHC, state, and local codes. Permits will expire as outlined by the local code.
Aquatic Facility Inspections
An inspection of the facility is crucial before its opening, and is to be regularly inspected based on the terms outlined by the local code.
“Upon presenting proper identification, an authorized employee or agent of the [local government] shall have the right to and be permitted to enter any aquatic facility or aquatic venue area, including the recirculation equipment and piping area, at any reasonable time for the purpose of inspecting the aquatic venue or aquatic features to do any of the following:
- Inspect, investigate, or evaluate for compliance with this CODE;
- Verify compliance with previously written violation orders;
- Collect samples or specimens;
- Examine, review, and copy relevant documents and records;
- Obtain photographic or other evidence needed to enforce [MAHC]; or
- Question any person”
The frequency of inspections is subject to change if any risks are identified
Reasons to Issue Fines / Close Pools and / or Aquatic Facilities
“Any of the following violations are imminent health hazards which shall require immediate correction or immediate pool closure:
- Failure to provide supervision and staffing of the aquatic facility as prescribed in MAHC 184.108.40.206;
- Failure to provide the minimum disinfectant residual levels listed in various sections of [MAHC];
- pH level below 6.5;
- pH level above 8.0;
- Failure to continuously operate the aquatic venue filtration and disinfection equipment;
- Use of an unapproved or contaminated water supply source for potable water use;
- Unprotected overhead electrical wires within 20 feet horizontally of the aquatic venue;
- Non GFCI protected electrical receptacles within 20 feet of the inside wall of the aquatic venue;
- Failure to maintain an emergency lighting source;
- Absence of all required lifesaving equipment on deck;
- Aquatic venue bottom not visible;
- Total absence of or improper depth markings at an aquatic venue;
- Plumbing cross-connections between the drinking water supply and aquatic venue water or between sewage system and the aquatic venue including filter backwash facilities;
- Failure to provide and maintain an enclosure or barrier to inhibit unauthorized access to the aquatic facility or aquatic venue when required;
- Use of unapproved chemicals or the application of chemicals by unapproved methods to the aquatic venue water;
- Broken, unsecured, or missing main drain grate or any submerged suction outlet grate in the aquatic venue;
- Number of bathers/patrons exceeds the theoretical peak occupancy;
- Broken glass or sharp objects in aquatic venue or on deck area; or
- Any other item determined to be a public health hazard by the [local health department].”
Learn more about the specific code enforcement requirements related to pool inspections on page 182 of the 2018 MAHC Code.
How Government Technology Can Help With Aquatic Facility / Pool Inspections
Health department software and related government technology can make the inspection and permitting processes related to aquatic facilities more efficient and organized. Here are specific ways that GovPilot can help:
1. Digital Permitting Forms & Data Storage
Since operational permits are required in order for an aquatic facility to be open to the public, let pool venue owners apply for health permits digitally. Once a permit application is submitted to your government website, inspectors can go and review the site and if the facility meets code standards, relevant officials can virtually approve the application. The applicant will then be notified and will receive the permit via email.
Once a permit is approved, it will be digitally stored in the government cloud and accessible within several clicks to any relevant government officials (alongside other related records for the property at hand.)
Learn more about How Cloud-Based Government Data Storage Works.
Pro Tip: Choose one of GovPilot’s credit card processing integrations to collect permit application fees right from your government website. Explore the Government Fee and Fine Collection guide for more insight.
2. Simplified Inspection Requests and Scheduling
Aquatic facility owners can let your local code officials know that a pool inspection is needed for a new or updated facility, or if an existing operational permit is about to expire.
Once an inspection request comes in, government scheduling technology can send automated notifications reminding inspectors to add the aquatic facility at hand to their upcoming inspection schedule.
3. Pool Inspections on a Government Field Device
Health inspections (and other inspection types like building inspections) can all be completed with efficiency from a phone or tablet. Using a government mobile field device to perform inspections makes processes significantly quicker, and as soon as an inspection is completed, the inspection records are automatically uploaded to the cloud and accessible to all applicable officials.
4. Access Aquatic Venue Property Records Instantly
Local GIS map technology allows government officials to pull up property records for any particular pool or aquatic facility in a moment's time, such as permits, construction records, and other related documentation.
Learn more about How GIS Maps Can Help Local Governments.
5. Insightful Aquatic Facility Data
As your local government continues to file permits and perform inspections related to aquatic facilities, government analytics will allow you to collect insightful data about:
- The types of aquatic facilities that are being applied for (pools, spas, hot tubs, etc.)
- Common reasons that pools are failing inspections so that your local government can come up with solutions to mitigate the issue in tandem with private-sector partners that operate aquatic facilities.
- How much government revenue is being generated by permit applications and fines for aquatic facility code violations.
How Local Governments Keep Public Pools Safe
Paying attention to the extensive policies for aquatic facilities to abide by from the MAHC, and enforcing codes with modern permitting and inspection workflows are critical for local governments to ensure that local public pools are safe and sanitary to be used by the public.
To learn more about how GovPilot can streamline the pool inspection and permitting processes, book a free demo.
Aquatic Facility Inspection FAQs
1. Why Do Local Governments Need to Enforce Codes Related to Pools?
Without proper precautions in place, contaminants can make swimming pools completely unsafe to swim in, or the surrounding area of the pool easy to slip and fall on. Local governments prioritizing public health and safety need to make sure that all aquatic facilities are completely safe to mitigate the risk of bodily harm by performing recurring inspections for both new construction and existing spaces.
2. What is Pool Inspection Software
Pool inspection software is technology that makes inspection forms accessible on a government tablet that can be filled out from the field during a pool / aquatic facility inspection and instantly stored in the government cloud.