Georgia Legislature Battles Over Pool Inspections

Georgia’s State Senate recently passed a bill that allows operators and owners of commercial swimming pools to opt out of the state’s 36-point public health inspections.

House Bill 219 is a watered down version of earlier legislation that would’ve all but eliminated public inspections of commercial pools in the state. The current bill gives a pass to townhouse, condo and subdivision pools that serve no more than 75 swimmers. Larger, busier pools remain subject to inspection.

According to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the battle over the legislation has been drawn largely down ideological lines. According to State Senator William T. Ligon, who pushed for the stronger version of the bill, the current legislation is nonetheless a victory for property-rights advocates and a positive step in the ongoing fight against what he described as “onerous government regulation.”

(According the AJC report, the legislation was initiated largely as the result of a single overzealous inspector.)

Opposing the bill, public health advocates led by the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control, argued that pool inspections are necessary in order to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases, such as E. Coli, cryptosporidium and other ailments arising from infectious pathogens, as well as chlorine byproducts.

According to the CDC’s Michael Beach, director for healthy water with the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, inspections are “the front line protection for swimmers in this country. Specifically, he explained that outbreaks of diarrhea, in addition to eye, ear, respiratory and skin infections that occur at swimming pools across the country each year are largely due to the improper handling, mixing and storage of chemicals and faulty equipment, all of which can be identified by way of inspection.

Support for public pool inspections has increased in recent years beginning with an outbreak at a splash pad in 1998 that claimed the life of one child and sent several others to the hospital. In 2006, the CDC sampled 160 pool filters in the metro Atlanta area and discovered that eight percent were contaminated by pathogens in concentrations sufficient enough to cause outbreaks. Later in 2012, the CDC conducted another survey that revealed more than half of public pool filters contained E. Coli.

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