Many of you are taking your kids to the pool this week, but how clean is the water?
Sacramento County has 2,197 public swimming pools, which include pools at apartment complexes, hotels, and public city pools.
Zarha Ruiz is the supervising environmental specialist for the county's Environmental Management Department. She oversees the 35 pool inspectors, who — at this time of year — are in the midst of inspecting each and every one of those nearly 2,200 pools.
"When we come and do our inspections, we are doing a full chemical evaluation of the pool, making sure that the pH, that the chlorine levels are sufficient in order to keep the pool free of pathogens," Ruiz said. "And then we're evaluating the general safety of the pool: everything from the enclosure to the safety equipment to the suction issues that can happen in a pool."
Eleven-year-old Bryce Bledsaw and his grandpa Paul Jeffers are visiting the Sacramento area for a basketball camp and are staying at the Four Points by Sheraton in North Natomas, where they were cooling off in the outdoor pool Tuesday afternoon.
"It feels really good. It feels way better than out there," Bryce said.
"Both of us on the way back from the camp were discussing how the first thing we were going to do is get into our trunks and get to the pool," grandpa Jeffers said.
Both of them have pools back at home and said this one at Four Points looks clean.
"It's real important to me that the pool be clean, yes. We want to make sure that he stays healthy," Jeffers said, nodding toward Bryce with a smile. "I'm not going to be real popular at home if I take him home sick."
Ruiz said clear water like in this pool is a good sign, but beware if you smell a lot of chlorine at any public pool.
"A healthy swimming pool does not have a strong chemical odor," Ruiz said. "That strong chlorine smell, those are byproducts from the chlorine meshing with our sweat and our other bodily fluids."
Part of inspectors' cleanliness and safety checks include ensuring there's some kind of fence, wall or other barrier keeping small children from getting in the water unsupervised.
Additionally, inspectors test for chemical levels.
"It's really a daily, hourly exercise that they need to do to keep the pool in balance," Ruiz said, adding that's especially important in hot weather like this, when chlorine burns off more quickly.
She said, on average, inspectors temporarily shut down anywhere from one to four pools per day.
"If we find violations that are a immediate risk to public health, the pool will be closed temporarily until those items can be addressed and corrected and brought back up into compliance," she said.
Parents who want to test the water for themselves have options.
"Absolutely, there's resources for the lay person to go out and be able to check on their own before they let their children or themselves into a public pool," Ruiz said.
Do-it-yourself swimming pool water testing kits are sold at pool supply and outdoor stores.
But keeping a pool clean requires help from swimmers, too. If you're planning on taking a dip, Ruiz said, shower off first, since sweat and makeup can dirty up a public pool.
If you have a concern about a public pool, she added, you can call 3-1-1 and report it.