Healthy and Safe Swimming Pools

Keeping pools operating properly is an issue of public health and safety

Keeping pools operating properly is an issue of public health and safety

Swimming in a public pool can be one of the greatest joys of summer. Pools are a great place to spend time with friends, soak up the sunshine, and stay cool! Most of us know there are safety rules at pools—how many times have you heard your parent or lifeguard say “no running!!” Have you ever thought about other safety and health issues for public pools? Things like: how the pool was designed, whether the filtration system works properly, proper fencing to prevent drowning, and reminder signs? And what about spas? Is the water temperature set correctly? Who is maintaining the proper chemical balance to maintain sanitation without making swimmers sick from too much or too little chemicals?

The San Mateo County Environmental Health Services (EHS) Division takes these concerns very seriously. EHS has a pool specialist who has the job of inspecting over 1,000 public pools and spas in San Mateo County. Public pools are those located at apartments, condominiums, municipal facilities, schools, hotels, health clubs and mobile home parks, and include wading pools, therapy pools, interactive spray grounds and spas. A residential pool is considered public when it is located at a facility where there are 4 or more living units. Disease associated with contaminated drinking water can also be spread through contact with contaminated swimming pool water. In addition, swimming pools/spas and adjacent areas are often sources of injury. EHS does not inspect pools and spas in private homes. The goal of the swimming pool program is to ensure that all public swimming pools and spas are constructed and maintained in a safe and sanitary manner.

The EHS Pool Specialist accomplishes the goal of safe and healthy pools by educating pool operators and staff in pool/spa operation, maintenance, and water chemistry. The specialist works in conjunction with pool contractors, architects and engineers in the development phase for any proposed aquatic facility, performing routine, construction and complaint inspections and enforcing laws by closing pools when necessary. These laws are mandated by the State of California to be enforced in every county. If you would like to learn more about public pool and spa health and safety, please go to and read about our other recreational water programs that include beaches! If you have a complaint about a public swimming pool, please call EHS at (650) 372-6200.

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