Audit finds one-third of Philly pools, spray parks have safety issues

Posted: September 04, 2014

A city controller's inspection of Philadelphia's public pools and spray parks found that about a third had safety issues, but most were minor and all easily fixable.

The most frequent problem reported was uneven deck surfaces, which could cause falls. Inspectors also found spilled chlorine and clogged drains creating puddling at some pools.

During the inspectors' visit at O'Connor Pool at 26th and South Streets in mid-August, three swimmers were shocked by an electrical current while climbing a pool ladder. The three were taken to the hospital but released after observation. The pool was closed for the season while the city worked to resolve the issue.

The report said 54 of the city's 81 pools and spray parks "were observed to have a safe and secure environment for both swimmers and visitors."

"Many of the issues we observed can easily be corrected if appropriate actions are taken by Parks and Recreation," said Controller Alan Butkovitz in a statement.

Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis said the city would work over the winter to rectify the shortcomings before the start of the next swim season.

"I think it was a fair report," he said. "On most of the big stuff, we passed or did well on."

By "big stuff," DiBerardinis was referring to the appropriate number and vigilance of lifeguards, water quality, and general operations of the pools and spray parks. The controller's report found no issues with any of those.

DiBerardinis said city workers typically worked during the offseason to eliminate the types of tripping hazards the report highlighted.

"Our guys are out there in late winter and spring," he said. "We do everything we can to level off those decks, but the system is old. We do the best we can to get the decks up to a relative standard of safety."

Issues with spilled chlorine will be resolved next year when the city begins to use self-contained liquid chlorine systems at its pools, which will eliminate the need for storing and mixing powdered chlorine at poolside.

As for the incident at O'Connor Pool, DiBerardinis said he was still awaiting a report on what might have caused the electrical current to pass through the pool ladder. Until the problem is solved, the pool will remained closed.


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