Pool drain rules closes spa at Wheaton fitness club
At least one fitness facility in DuPage County as been affected by a deadline to comply with federal and state safety rules requiring the installation of modern pool drain covers.
Visitors to the Wheaton Sports Center can swim in the indoor main lap pool and therapy pool. But the club's two hot tubs are closed because they aren't in compliance, state officials say.
"There's frustration, because our hot tubs are completely safe," said Dawn Szumski, general manager of the facility in Wheaton.
All licensed swimming facilities in the state had until Oct. 1 to meet the safety rules or be required to shut down.
Under the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act enacted in 2007, swimming pools are required to have outfitted covers on drains, intended to prevent strong suction that can trap swimmers underwater. Additional state requirements were approved last February.
But some pool operators have argued that their pools wrongly appeared on a noncompliance list issued by the state department of public health. They maintain their pools are safe — state inspectors just haven't come out to give proper certifications.
Some of the outdoor pools on the noncompliance list already are closed for the season.
Meanwhile, Tom Lally, director of facilities at the Wheaton Sports Center, said it would be "virtually impossible" for someone to become trapped in the drains of either of the facility's hot tubs because of the their configurations.
But because of state rules, "it's something that has to be changed," Lally said.
The center's staff is awaiting approval of a permit application from the state that sanctions the proposed hot tub modifications, Lally said.
In some cases, the approval process may be taking longer than expected because state officials often request revisions of permit applications submitted by swimming facilities, said Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"The better quality plan, the better chance it will be approved upon first review," Arnold said. "Some have to resubmit their plans three or four times."
Once construction permits have been approved and drain repairs have been completed, state inspectors will come on site to certify the pools, she said.
Since the state released its noncompliance list two weeks ago, the number of pools on the list has dropped from about 500 to 450.
One facility that has since received approvals is the B.R. Ryall YMCA in Glen Ellyn. Officials there said the necessary pool upgrades were made before the Oct. 1 deadline, but state inspectors didn't come out until Oct. 8.
Several outdoor facilities are awaiting inspection by state officials.
In Carol Stream, the park district's Coral Cove Water Park was open all summer long after it received approval from the county.
"The county health department gives you a permit — only if you're in compliance with state regulations. They came and looked and saw that everything was in compliance," said Julie Vogl, the park district's spokeswoman. "The state didn't have a chance to come out and inspect it."
The Glen Ellyn Park District's Sunset Pool underwent $70,000 in drain improvements after the safety rules were implemented and also received county approvals. But the facility also appears on the state's list.
"For some reason, the state never came out and made their final inspections," said Dave Harris, the park district's executive director.
State officials have indicated they would complete an inspection at Sunset Pool within the next two weeks, Harris said.
Arnold denied there was a backlog on inspections, and said state inspectors try to get out to sites as quickly as possible, sometimes 10 days after being contacted by facilities.
"They've known since 2008 until now they were going to have to be in compliance with suction and entrapment regulations," Arnold said. "It's certainly not our goal to shut facilities down. Our goal is to make sure they're compliant with the law."
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