CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Anna Douglas and Rachel Jones | The Charlotte Observer) - Dirty swimming pool floors, poorly-stored chemicals and broken equipment that's supposed to keep the water clean — those are just a few problems local health inspectors found at public pools around Charlotte in the last few weeks.
Inspections at more than 1,000 seasonal swimming pools will be ongoing throughout the summer.
In April and May, inspectors visited nearly 900 pools and close to 80 were out of compliance or had health or safety issues.
To see how the local pool in your neighborhood, school or recreation center scored in its most recent health and safety review, visit Mecklenburg County's online inspection database.
Swimming pool inspectors check each facility for things like water quality, working pool maintenance equipment, sanitation of restrooms and locker rooms, pool suction hazards and life-saving devices on site. If a facility has too many problems or at least one severe health or safety hazard, county health department officials are allowed to shut down the pool until the issues are fixed.
Most pools will be checked at least once or twice each swim season.
Some pools in the county waited longer to open this swim season after officials introduced tougher rules for operating permits and inspections.
The change came after a Charlotte Observer investigation last year found that county officials weren't requiring a health and safety inspection prior to issuing local pool opening permits.
The Observer found nearly 350 public swimming pools opened last year around Memorial Day despite not having been inspected. And, at least six of those pools had been shut down the summer prior because of unresolved health or safety hazards.
County elected officials responded by demanding a policy change.
This year, the county health department wouldn't issue a permit to any pool until it passed a 2018 inspection.
Mecklenburg County Environmental Health Supervisor Tim Dutcher, who is in charge of the health department's inspections program, says the new requirement has gone well.
"It gives the public peace of mind that the pool, at least at the beginning of the year, was right," Dutcher said.
In most cases, pre-season inspections found pools were in compliance. Of the pools that had problems, facility operators were able to make corrections quickly in most cases. The health department allows pool operators to correct problems after an inspection and pay a $100 fee for a follow-up visit to check for compliance.
Two of the county commission's most-outspoken critics of last year's swimming pool inspection issues say they're happy with the 2018 season changes.
Commissioner Jim Puckett — who last year called the failure to track problem pools into the next season "ludicrous" — says the policy change has already improved public safety by inspectors spotting problems at dozens of pools before swimmers even hit the water.
"I'm glad to hear there's a number that failed because that means that we're catching these things," he said.