by Virginia Thompson
Swimming at our local pool is one of my favorite summer activities. As I recently reflected on the accomplishment of logging 1,000 laps annually for nearly a decade, it dawned on me we often don’t give a second thought to the water we’re swimming in.
Ironically, many of us have read the book Safety First to our preschoolers, but we may not think about safety when it comes to ourselves as adults. This year, my fellow swimmers and I got an unexpected refresher lesson in pool safety. After a horrific storm in June, our pool was closed for four days because there was no electricity to power the pumps that mix the chemicals to keep our pool in compliance with our state’s safety standards for swimming pools.
Local social media was abuzz about the pool’s status. Once the electricity came back, pool staff continued pumping the water, and adding appropriate levels of chlorine and other chemicals to ensure the safety of swimmers. When the staff was certain the water could maintain the health standards for a full day and beyond, they allowed us back in the pool.
It was an unfortunate break for those of us trying to earn that recreational swimmer’s badge of honor – the 1,000 lap t-shirt – but no one objected to putting safety first.
Swimming pool staff add chlorine and other chemicals like algicides, to the water to kill bacteria, control algae, and clean the walls and bottom of the pool. These antimicrobial pesticides, need to be added in Goldilocks quantities that are “just right” – with too little treatment, swimmers can get sick; too much can cause harmful reactions to our skin or lungs from touching, breathing, or drinking the water.
Ever wonder about those chemicals? And, where and how pools keep them? Because storing chlorine and other potentially dangerous chemicals is a serious concern for communities, EPA has resources to help people in our communities such as Local Emergency Planning Committees to make sure that the chemicals are handled, used, and stored safely, and that local responders are well prepared if an emergency occurs.
As I make it a point to get to the pool as often as possible as summer winds down, I know I’ll be thinking about everything that goes into keeping our water safe.
About the author: Virginia Thompson works for EPA’s mid-Atlantic Region and is an avid swimmer.