Swimming pools and spas have been linked to slips, falls, accidental entrapments and the transmission of diseases including giardia, cryptosporidia, and E. coli. For these reasons, proper construction, maintenance and operation of all public swimming pools and spas are of significant public health importance.
The Yolo County Environmental Health Division regulates approximately 350 public swimming pools and spas.
Yolo County Environmental Health Specialists working in the recreational health program:
Review new construction and remodeling plans for public pools and spas to ensure that they will meet code requirements.
Review and issue annual operating permits for all public pools and spas.
Conduct annual inspections, in addition to necessary follow-up inspections and complaint investigations, of all public swimming areas.
All public pools and spas require a permit to operate per Yolo County Code Section 6-9.301. The Yolo County Environmental Health Division issues this permit. A public pool is a pool or spa “operated for the use of the general public with or without charge, or for the use of the members and guests of a private club”. This includes facilities located at a hotel, motel, inn, apartment complex, homeowners association, or any residential setting other than a single family home. The application for a health permit is available here.
New construction and remodeling plans for public pools and spas are reviewed to ensure that the facility will meet code requirements. This includes re-plastering, changes to re-circulation/ jet equipment and new fencing. For a comprehensive list of laws and regulations that apply to California public pools, spas, spray grounds an water parks visit California Public Swimming Pool Requirements. Plans submitted for approval must include specifications for all equipment (cut-sheets). The "Recreational Health Plan Check Sheet" is available here for guidance.
The California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health (CCDEH) has issued guidelines for the construction and operation of interactive water features and water parks. These guidelines are available here.
After construction plans are approved, Environmental Health Specialists conduct various construction inspections to ensure the pool or spa is built according to the approved plans.
The following inspections are required during the construction phase: pre-gunite, pre-plaster, pre-deck, and final. These inspections must be scheduled a minimum of 48 hours in advance by calling (530) 666-8646.
An Environmental Health Specialist tests a public spa for proper pH and chlorine levels to ensure it is being maintained to standards.
All public swimming pools and spas are inspected to ensure that they are being maintained in a sanitary manner and that safe practices are being followed to prevent disease transmission and accidents. Inspections include water quality conditions (including pH and chlorine residual), water clarity, and the cleanliness of the facility. The facility is also evaluated for safety hazards such as proper fencing, gated access control, appropriate signs, and proper operation and maintenance of equipment. Pools and spas that are open all year round are inspected two times per year while pools and spas that are open only during the summer months are inspected once per year. If needed, follow-up inspections are performed to ensure pool operator compliance. Download the Pool and Spa Inspection Checklist to perform an inspection of your own pool!
Conditions that will result in the immediate closure of your pool or spa include:
Pool water is not clear so that the bottom of the pool cannot be seen.
Main drain covers or equalizer covers are missing or broken
No free chlorine residuals or chlorine in excess of 10ppm.
Electrical hazards such as the pool light having separated from the pool wall.
Broken fencing or openings in fences greater than 6 inches.
Chronic failure to keep records. Pool facilities must keep daily records of chlorine and pH levels (this includes the weekend). If two inspections find daily records are not being kept properly the pool and/or spa will be closed for a minimum of 1 week during which testing and records must be kept.
Entrance gates do not self-latch or self-close.
Conditions that will require correction within 24 hours include:
In addition to the inspections and plan review activities, Environmental Health offers free workshops for Public Swimming Pool Owners, Operators, and Service People during the Spring season. The workshops provide information on what to expect during an inspection; what is classified as a major violation; how to avoid a major violation; and information on new pool requirements. Please click on the link below to view the training.
LOOK at the pool and surroundings. Water should be clean and clear with no odor. Well-chlorinated pools have no odor; a strong chemical smell may indicate a maintenance problem. You should be able to hear pool pumps and filtration systems working.
ASK questions of the pool staff. Are chlorine and pH levels checked at least twice per day? Where are the health inspection reports for the pool?
ACT by being proactive. Learn about recreational water illnesses. Urge your pool operator to spread the word about water illnesses to staff and pool patrons.
PRACTICE healthy swimming behaviors. Refrain from swimming if you have diarrhea. Take children to the restroom and check diapers often. Shower before using the pool, swimming is communal bathing. When you are in the water you are bathing with everyone else in the pool and chlorine does not kill all germs.
SAFETY is always important!
Keep an eye on children at all times. Children should not have access to the pool or spa without adult supervision and should never be left unattended in a pool or spa. Fences, gates, or other means to prevent children from access to falling into the pool or spa is essential.
Protect against the sun by using a sunscreen with at least SPF15 and both UVA and UVB protection and REAPPLY after swimming.
Can I get sick from swimming in a public pool?
Millions of people swim each year without getting sick, however, it is possible to become ill as a result of swimming in a public pool. Germs in contaminated water can enter your body if you accidentally swallow the water, or through open wounds. They can also cause infections in your eyes, nose and ears. A pool usually becomes contaminated if someone has a fecal “accident” in the pool.
Can I get sick from using a public spa?
Yes. Although you can get the same diseases from a spa as you can from a swimming pool, skin infections are the most common type of infections spread through hot tubs and spas. The high water temperature of hot tubs and spas may cause chlorine levels to dissipate faster. As a result, chlorine in hot tubs and spas needs to be checked more regularly than in swimming pools.
Doesn’t chlorine kill all of the germs in public pools and spas?
Yes, but it takes time. Chlorine in properly disinfected pools kills most germs that cause recreational water illnesses (RWI) in less than one hour. Chlorine takes longer to kill some germs such as crytosporidium, which can survive for days in a properly disinfected pool.
Are lifeguards required at public pools?
A lifeguard is not required at public swimming pools. However, if a lifeguard is not provided, a sign must be posted that is visible from the pool deck that reads "WARNING, NO LIFE GUARD ON DUTY".
Do you inspect residential pools?
No, we do not inspect residential pools. The Environmental Health division only inspects public swimming pools.
There was a fecal accident in the pool, what should I do?
The pool must be closed immediately when a fecal accident occurs. Follow the guidelines from the CDC posted here.
Do I need to submit plans to Environmental Health before re-plastering my pool?
A plan check is required for new construction or remodeling of any public pool. Remodeling includes re-plastering, replacing equipment, decking or fencing.
What are the proper chemical levels for a pool?
The free chlorine residual must be a minimum of 1.0 ppm (if cyanuric acid is not present), or 1.5 ppm (if cyanuric acid is present). It should not exceed 10 ppm. The pH level must be between 7.2 to 8.0. Cyanuric acid levels must not exceed 100 ppm.
What is cyanuric acid?
Cyanuric acid is a chlorine stabilizer that is present in many chlorine tablets or can be added separately. It slows down the decomposition of chlorine from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Over time it will accumulate in the pool water. Excessive levels can interfere with the effectiveness of the chlorine in the pool. You should test for it once a month.
My pool guy comes twice a week and checks the chemical levels. Why do I need to do it?
The law requires that all public pools keep a daily record (this includes weekends) of information regarding the operation, including the chlorine and pH levels and maintenance procedures such as cleaning filters and adding chemicals. You must have an approved test kit on-site. The daily records must be maintained for at least 1 year for inspection purposes. For a sample daily maintenance log click here.
What is AB1020?
Assembly Bill 1020 (AB1020) was signed into law by the Governor on October 1, 2009. It requires that all public swimming pools and spa be equipped with drain covers the meet the current ASME/ANSI performance standard A112.19.8. It also requires that pools and spas with a single main drain, that is not an unblockable drain, be equipped with a secondary safety device such as a safety vacuum release system (SVRS). See the California Department of Public Health, Recreational Health Program website for more information on AB1020.
What do I need to do in order to make sure that my pool and/or spa are in compliance with AB1020? In order to be considered compliance with AB1020 you must have new approved covers installed on both the main drains and equalizer lines. If required, you must install a secondary safety devise, such as a SVRS. You must submit the California Department of Public Health Compliance Form for review. This form must be completed and signed by a pool contractor with a valid California contractors license. Environmental Health will review this form to verify compliance with AB1020. There is a plan check fee that must be paid prior to review. Call our office at (530) 666-8646 to talk with an Environmental Health Specialist regarding this fee.