A day in the life of a Florida public pool inspector, part 2
By Lauren Broom Education vs. Enforcement
As a pool inspector with the Florida Department of Health for 16 years, I was taught that regulation and education go hand in hand. Otherwise, how would public pool owners know how to correct certain violations when the inspector is the specialist? The education occurs during the time of inspection between the inspector and the pool operator onsite at the property. A quality inspector includes education as part of the inspection and inspection review process.
When reviewing violations with the pool operator there should be an attempt to ensure an understanding of why the violation was documented and the potential ramifications related to those violations regarding health and safety to the users of the pool. When reviewing violations with the pool operator, the best inspectors will assist in providing direction or suggestions that could prevent recurrences of those violations.
Written violations on an inspection report does not always motivate a public pool owner to make corrections. A public pool closure surprisingly, does not always motivate correction of violations. Eventually, it could result in enforcement action against the owner of the property.
How is a Florida Public Pool Closed?
A public pool could be closed in a couple of ways. First, the inspector could meet with the facility and visually see them close the pool with their own closure signs. Or, if there is no one onsite, the inspector would have to post pool closed signs at all points of access into the pool prior to departure.
Pool re-opening is determined by the pool inspection guidance document that the Department uses for consistency on violations throughout the state.
If a pool was closed, it normally would require a re-inspection the next day unless the pool owner or their designee communicates that the pool will not be ready for re-inspection within that time period.
The pool inspector would discuss with the pool owner a reasonable time period to set for the re-inspection date.
Enforcement and the Environmental Control Hearing Board
As an inspector, I did not want enforcement as my first path. I would, of course, close the pool if it was required. If multiple inspection periods resulted in the same repeat violations, then I would present the inspection record to my supervisor. The supervisor would prepare it for the Environmental Control Hearing Board (ECHB). Our county was one of the few counties that has a local ECHB. The majority of Florida county health departments have to utilize their Regional State Attorney to complete the same process of the local ECHB.
An ECHB is a board of local residents who care about environmental and public health in their county. The board attends six meetings per year to determine what action should be taken for the violations noted by the inspector. These actions could be physical corrections or an imposition of fines due to continual public health threats to the community. The owner of
Lauren Broom is a Certified Pool Operator Course, CPO
® , instructor and a former health inspector for the Florida Department of Health. Lauren has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and is a registered sanitarian.
She has 16-years of experience in commercial pool inspections and waterborne disease outbreak investigations.
Lauren lives in Palm Bay, Florida with her husband of 17 years and their 3 children. Lauren can be reached at [email protected]
Lauren Broom the property is notified of the meeting by certified mail and may attend the ECHB hearing and testify. This sometimes bodes well for the pool owner, because they can explain to the board any extenuating circumstances or financial hardships that have occurred that may have contributed to the pool closure.
The pool company may also be part of this process. The pool company is the subcontractor the pool owner has chosen to maintain the public pool. The pool owner often comes to the ECHB hearing and brings the pool company owner or representative with them to help explain violations or corrections to the board. The pool company is not imposed any fines or restrictions. The fines or restrictions can only be imposed on the owner of the property. The restrictions or added duties could become the responsibility of the pool company if the pool owner decides the pool company is at fault and passes on the imposed fines to them. The Department cannot hold the pool company legally responsible, but the ramifications of the violations can extend out to the pool company. The ramifications are loss of customers and negative “word of mouth” advertising. If the pool company is still employed by the pool owner, they are definitely an integral part in the correction process stipulated by the ECHB meeting.
Florida Pool Inspector Case File of Enforcement
The commercial public spa can easily become a public health and safety hazard if it is not maintained properly. Recreational water illness due to low disinfectant, poor water chemistry, ORP controller malfunction or inoperable disinfection feeder is a very real concern. The hot water temperature of the spa also complicates the maintenance of the spa. The threat of suction entrapment is further increased compared to a pool due to shallow water depth to the main drain. I inspected a commercial spa in Vero Beach, Florida, while employed by the Department of Health because it became a public health and safety threat. My office interviewed two people who tested positive for Legionella pnuemophila. Both people used the spa in the same week. The spa was below 2 ppm on chlorine level, the ORP controller was below minimum 700 mV, the pH levels were high and there was no onsite daily chemical log. These violations are possible contributors to the Legionella cases.
My office issued a formal Notice of Violation to the property owner through certified mail. The property owner was involved in an ECHB hearing regarding the violations at this property that endangered public health. There were fines imposed due to these violations.
The property owner and pool company were sued by one of the affected parties for monetary recoupment of medical expenses.
The facility could not show an effective legal defense because there was no daily chemical log kept for chlorine and pH readings as required by Florida state code. This lawsuit was not connected to the ECHB hearing or the Florida Department of Health fines or imposed corrections. Pool operators and owners should always maintain their pool in a healthy and safe state in order to avoid lawsuits.
Where To Get Help
Lauren Broom, owner of Space Coast Pool School, is now offering consulting services within the state of Florida for pool companies and properties.
She has 16 years of Florida public pool inspection experience. Readers should utilize that experience to help them pass state inspections.
The services are to help provide guidance to the pool companies or owners to maintain their pools open and safe. Quality assurance prior to a state inspection is a good way to check on your compliance. Communicate with Lauren Broom if would like to have a facility assessment.