Several public pools in Illinois have been forced to close after missing the state’s Oct. 1 deadline for compliance with the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB).
In a statement released two days before the deadline, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said that 15 percent of the pools licensed by the state have not yet installed the drain covers or other anti-entrapment devices required for VGB compliance. The list of noncompliant facilities, available on the IDPH website, includes pools operated by condominium and homes associations, municipal parks and recreation departments, schools, hotels, nonprofit community centers and for-profit health clubs, including Bally Total Fitness, LA Fitness, Life Time Fitness and XSport Fitness.
A Life Time Fitness spokesperson says that the Life Time pools on the list were not inspected in time for submittal of the IDPH form, which caused them to be listed as noncompliant when the list was created on Oct. 1. However, as of Oct. 7, all the pools have passed compliance inspection and have been cleared to operate. All required IDPH forms for these pools have been filed, and a request has been submitted for hearing to close the case from a legal standpoint.
Bally spokesperson Pete Marino says the company is working with local authorities to provide them with the necessary information to withdraw the citation—which it claims is erroneous—at its club in Morton Grove, IL.
“At Bally, our number one priority is the health and safety of our members and employees,” Marino says. “We believe that our pool in our Morton Grove club is fully compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Act.”
The Springfield YMCA is among the approximately 500 public and commercial pools in Illinois that is not yet compliant. The branch was forced to close on Monday, Oct. 3, but reopened the following day after receiving an extension from the IDPH.
“We entered into a Stipulation and Agreed Compliance Plan which will allow us to stay open until December 18, 2011, when we will shut down to make our repairs,” said a post on the branch’s Facebook page.
In a story in the Springfield-based State Journal-Register newspaper, IDPH spokesperson Melaney Arnold said that extensions that could allow other noncompliant facilities to re-open will be issued on a case-by-case basis.
The superintendent of one Chicago-area school district that was ordered to close its pools questioned whether the YMCA received preferential treatment from the IDPH. Prentiss Lea, superintendent of the Libertyville and Vernon Hills high school district, told the State Journal-Register that his office had been told that there would be no extensions. Lea added that the Oct. 1 deadline should be extended for all facilities because the IDPH does not have enough inspectors to consider extension applications.
Arnold says that the IDPH did not give the nonprofit an unfair advantage and that the department had not granted extensions before the deadline because it wanted to encourage timely compliance.