HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- All summer long, and especially during summer holidays, your neighborhood pool is often where your family goes to cool off and relax.
And before diving in, you're likely not thinking about the water's chemical levels--- because why wouldn't they be safe?
Turns out that chlorine, pH, and alkalinity are the elements of water safety that you can't see, and trusting that they're being monitored all depends on which neighborhood pool you're swimming in.
Surprisingly, the local health department doesn't regulate our local pools' water safety at all. It's up to each individual pool, private or public, to make sure their water's safe.
"The Hampton House has a lot of best hand practices that we put into place, we just don't have anybody that ever stops by and checks on us," said Julie Wyte, executive director of the Hampton House in Hampton Cove.
This particular neighborhood pool prides itself on its water safety practices. That includes checking the chemical levels multiple times a day, logging them, and making them available for all members to see.
"I think it's imperative to be transparent," Wyte said. "We have 4,000 members, if somebody has a health issue we need to make sure that as a mother, as a family, that we're protecting them. It's important that they can come in anytime and see, and say hey, what are your levels, what are we lookin' like?'
Even if your family is just looking for a quick way to cool off the chemical levels can make the difference between a healthy swim, and a dangerous illness. A pool that hasn't been taken care of could make a lot of people sick very quickly.
If there is a threat, the pool might be shut down for thirty minutes, or sometimes, all day. It's determined by management, case by case.
Public facilities do usually employ a certified pool operator who is trained on water safety guidelines, and if pool management doesn't choose to follow those guidelines, they could be held liable for someone getting sick.
The Centers for Disease Control does recommend a model aquatic code for public swimming pools, but in Alabama, there's no official agency that regulates it.