by Pam Zubeck
Swimming pools and spas used by the public, which total about 150 in El Paso County, will once again under go regular inspections starting Sunday, the county's Public Health Department announced today.
Inspection of pools and taking of water samples for analysis was discontinued in 2008 amid budget cuts.
Now a streamlined version of the program is resuming, and the fees that will be charged pool owners will fund the program, unlike prior to the program being eliminated.
"Public Health reevaluated the program in 2011 with input from the pool and spa industry," Public Health spokeswoman Danielle Oller says in an e-mail. "It has been restructured to focus only on the prevention of waterborne illness, and the fees are set to cover this streamlined program."
Some key points of the program:
* Specialists will now conduct on-site water chemistry testing. (previous program took water samples, had them tested at the lab) This reduces staff time and lab costs.
* Seasonal pools/spas will be visited by staff once a year. Previous program was twice a year.
* There will be an additional charge for mandatory follow-up inspections to verify public health compliance.
* Based on industry feedback, staff will spend on-site inspection time working with the owner/operator to solve critical waterborne illness violations. Previous program looked for both critical and non-critical violations. This reduces staff time during the inspection.
Public Health said in a news release the goals of the program "are to increase education and outreach to the community and to stakeholders in the pool/spa industry, and protect the health and safety of pool and spa visitors with efficient use of staff resources and effective inspections and training."
Here are the new charges:
· Plan reviews, including pre-operational inspections—$241
· Inspections, year-round pool/spa facilities (includes two regular inspections)—$181
· Inspections-seasonal pools/spa—$106
· Follow-up inspections—$43/hour
· Additional services—$43/hour