Tom Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Expert
Recently, a rash of drownings have occurred in cloudy swimming pools which should have been closed to the public. The most recent settlement involved an eleven year old boy who had just finished playing basketball in a nearby park.
In the late afternoon following the game, the victim and his friends went to their apartment complex pool to cool off. The swimming pool was so cloudy that the bottom could not be seen; yet, the pool remained open to residents. Although no lifeguards were on duty, pool attendants were there to maintain water chemistry, check pool passes, and maintain order. The boy, who was the drowning victim, was a weak swimmer yet he asked to borrow goggles from a friend, and with the goggles in place, let go of the side of the pool, disappearing in the deep end.
While his friends soon discovered that he was missing, they were unsure whether he was in the swimming pool or if he had gone back to his apartment. After much confusion, a search of the deep end of the swimming pool was made with long extensions poles, but the boy was not found. No one entered the deep end to look for the boy because of the zero visibility. This eventually became a missing persons case because the boy did not return home by his 8 PM curfew, which he rarely missed.
After recording much information about the boy, investigators decided to check the pool again on the following day. The search and rescue team came to the pool on the following morning and the boy was found quickly on the bottom on the deep end of the swimming pool, approximately 12 hours after he disappeared.
It must be emphasized that the apartment complex did not employ a certified and qualified pool operator to keep the swimming pool water clean and clear. Unfortunately, this is the case in many hotel and apartment complex swimming pools. What is so egregious about cloudy swimming pools is that the national standard is for them to be kept closed to the public if the deepest point of the pool (main drain) cannot be clearly observed from the pool deck. Contrary to common belief, when a pool becomes cloudy, it is usually due to a lack of chlorine rather than a faulty pool filter.
Keeping a swimming pool crystal clear is quite easy, provided the pool operator is adequately trained and qualified. With the publication of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) in July of 2014, which requires swimming pool operators to be certified and qualified, hopefully cloudy swimming pools will be a thing of the past.
Tom Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Expert with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.