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updated: 10/3/2011 5:03 PM

Pools, spas across suburbs on state's noncompliance list

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  • Libertyville High School's swimming pool has been closed to the public because federally mandated drain repairs have not been made. The pool at sister school Vernon Hills High is closed as well, for the same reason.

    Libertyville High School's swimming pool has been closed to the public because federally mandated drain repairs have not been made. The pool at sister school Vernon Hills High is closed as well, for the same reason.
    Courtesy of School District 128

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Red tape bearing the messages "danger" and "do not enter" rings the swimming pool at Libertyville High School, a visual reminder that mandated safety repairs were not made by an Oct. 1 deadline.

The pool at sister school Vernon Hills High is off limits for the same reason, surrounded with yellow warning tape.

The two pools are among hundreds of pools and spas in the state listed as having not complied with federal and state laws requiring potentially dangerous drains be replaced with safer equipment.

Other sites listed on the state health department's website as noncompliant include hotels, exercise centers, condominium complexes and schools in Arlington Heights, Cary, Elgin, Gurnee, Lombard, Mount Prospect, Naperville, Palatine, Schaumburg, Wheaton, and many other suburbs.

The sites on the list represent about 15 percent of the public swimming pools in Illinois, said Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, which is enforcing the pool safety laws. Of those, some have been taking steps to meet the requirements, she said.

"We've been working with a lot of facilities for years to help them get compliant," Arnold said Monday.

The drain repairs are required under laws that date back to 2007. They were inspired by the deaths or injuries of children in swimming pools.

The Oct. 1 deadline was a state mark, not federal.

Repair plans must be approved by the state public health department before work can begin. The process can take weeks, state officials said.

The online list of noncompliant pools was up to date as of last week, Arnold said. When pools meet the standards, they'll be dropped from the list, she said.

Staffers at some facilities on the list believe they are complaint, Arnold said, and her agency is working with them to ensure that's the case. Others have had the repair work done and are awaiting state inspection, she said.

Other sites on the state's list include:

• Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital's heath and fitness center in Barrington.

• The Bartlett Lake Apartments in Bartlett.

• The Courtyard by Marriott in Arlington Heights.

• The former Laremont School near Grayslake.

• The Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook.

• The Coral Cove Water Park in Carol Stream.

• East Aurora High School in Aurora.

Hotels and condominium complexes appear most often on the noncompliance list.

"(Pools are) not their primary focus," Arnold said.

Small whirlpools in the locker rooms at Good Shepherd's fitness center landed the facility on the list, hospital spokeswoman Ro Ostergaard said. A local construction permit has been issued for the repairs.

"They're just waiting to be scheduled," Ostergaard said.

The Grayslake area's Laremont School building is owned by the Special Education District of Lake County but leased to the Gurnee Park District. It's used for swim lessons, parks director Susie Kuruvilla said.

Kuruvilla insisted the pool is compliant. The required drain repairs were made about a year ago, she said.

Permits have been granted for the necessary improvements at East Aurora High, too, Arnold said.

In Carol Stream, the park district's Coral Cove Water Park is closed for the season. The district's director couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Libertyville and Vernon Hills are the only active Lake County schools on the noncompliance list. District 128 administrators didn't learn of the deadline until this summer because of an internal communications breakdown, they've said.

Hundreds of students at both schools who were scheduled to swim this semester in physical education or lifeguard classes will have to participate in other activities, District 128 spokeswoman Mary Todoric said Monday.

The girls swim teams will practice at Mundelein and Stevenson high schools. All home meets have been relocated to the away teams' pools, she said.

Kristin Schrems, a senior and a captain on the Vernon Hills squad, said it's disappointing to not be able to compete in her home pool anymore.

Additionally, some teammates are concerned the schedule changes might affect how they compete at regional and state contests, performances that could impact college applications and scholarships, Schrems said.

"It definitely is weighing on most of us," she said.

The CATS Aquatic community swim team, which has activities at both schools, is affected, too. Members are swimming at other facilities, including Zion-Benton High School and Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.

"Our club has been able to obtain alternate facilities to maintain our program, albeit at times and locations that are challenging for our swimmers and their parents," CATS Aquatic President Steven Marcus said in an email.

State lawmakers have lobbied the agency for extensions for District 128 and the other facilities, but those requests haven't been granted.

Noncompliant pools do not need to be drained, the health department's Arnold said. Forbidding entry to the pools is enough, she said.

"Sometimes a drained pool can be just as dangerous as a filled one," Arnold said.