Most Swimming Pools Violate Health Code

East Texans are heading out to the swimming pool and some children are getting sick from what's in the water.

Whether it's your neighborhood pool, a hotel pool, or a public pool, how do you know if it's clean?

Pools in Smith County and Tyler are inspected only once a year by the Northeast Texas Public Health District. The department says it's under-funded and therefore, under-staffed. So unless you own and maintain your own pool, you're swimming at your own risk.

You may think you can see everyone and everything that's in the pool with you, but it's what you can't see that's frightening and potentially dangerous: E. coli, Crypto, Giardia, and other harmful bacteria and germs.

Where do they come from? People with diarrhea and other illnesses and babies wearing diapers.

"It obviously makes you want to not get in the pool, makes you wonder if it's clean enough or not," Cheryl Alexander, a local swimmer, said.

More than half of all pools that are inspected have some type of health violation, according to the Centers For Disease Control. Nearly one out of 10 pools in the nation are shut down because they're poorly maintained.

Local lifeguard Melissa Hicks witnesses firsthand what goes into the pool that shouldn't.

"You have the usual kids going to the bathroom in the pool," she said. "We do, a few kids actually throw up from swallowing too much water or swimming too soon after they eat."

Germs in swimming pools can cause illnesses in the skin, ears, eyes and open wounds, and respiratory infections.

Pool inspectors with the Northeast Texas Public Health District say there are several reasons some pools are dirtier than others: not enough chlorine, the wrong P-H balance, and too many swimmers.

"If it's not being maintained, doesn't look clean, if the water isn't clear or it's not sparkly, they should be wary about getting into that pool," Paul Adams, a pool inspector with the NTPHD, said. "If we come into a pool inspection and we cannot see the bottom drain due to cloudiness or discoloration, the pool is closed."

The problem the health district faces is inspectors cannot cite pool owners for violations. They can only ask management to clean up or close the pool. And since they only inspect pools once a year, it's hard to know whether you're getting into clean or dirty water.

The CDC has found the most health violations in child wading pools, medical or therapy pools, and hotel and motel pools.

Julie Tam, reporting.