74 YEARS AGO IN IDPH HISTORY
The Department has been regulating, inspecting and licensing public swimming pools since 1931.
Swimming can be hazardous for many reasons drownings, diving accidents, falls on wet surfaces and a number of diseases that may be transmitted by contaminated water. Recognizing these risks, the state legislature in 1931 enacted a swimming pool law that required the Department to adopt minimum sanitary requirements for the design, construction and operation of swimming pools.
Because the new law made no provision for additional personnel to carry it out, the regulation of swimming pools got off to a slow and halting start. It was not until July 1935 that the first set of rules and regulations were promulgated.
Before enactment of this law, there was little sanitary control of swimming pools in the state. A few local health departments did exercise some control but it was limited.
Current regulations require an owner to submit architectural plans for a swimming pool to the Department before construction begins. The plans are reviewed to ensure that they meet health, safety and water treatment requirements, including placement of the main drain and the depth of the water beneath a diving board.
Following approval of the plans and the issuance of a permit, construction of the pool may begin. Once it is completed but before the pool opens to the public staff inspect the pool to ensure that the approved plans were followed and that there are no health or safety violations.
Each year, about 40 pools are closed due to serious hazards discovered during an annual inspection. The most common reasons for these closures are a lack of chlorine in the water and water that is so turbid that it obscures the bottom of the pool. (Regulations require that the bottom of the pool and the main drain be clearly visible from poolside.)
In 1974, the swimming pool law was amended to give the Department authority over bathing beaches. The beaches are inspected annually to make sure required safety features are in place and that there are no nearby sources of pollution (e.g., sewage discharge). The Department also requires each licensed public beach to be sampled every two weeks to make sure bacterial levels in the water are within limits set in the Swimming Pool and Bathing Beach Code.
The Department shares inspection responsibilities for the states 3,500 public swimming pools and bathing beaches with some local health departments (the LHDs act as agents of the Department).
In May 2002, the Department assumed responsibility for regulating all water slides in the state and, in May 2003, it will begin licensing public spas (hot tubs, whirlpools, etc., that are part of facilities at hotels and motels, health clubs and other similar establishments).
... Years Ago in Public Health
A Timeline of the Illinois Department of Public Health