One-fourth of public pools in Salt Lake County closing over noncompliance with safety rule

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Health Department announced Monday that a quarter of the county’s public pools will be closed because they fail to meet Utah’s new safety requirements.

The health department said 163 of the 649 year-round or winter-seasonal pools in the county will have to close starting Feb. 1, including splash guards.

The other 486 pools meet state requirements for a chemical delivery system that is electronically “interlocked” with its water recirculation system.

This interlocking system prevents chemicals from being continuously dispensed if the water circulation system stops working, according to a press release from the Department of Health. This can lead to a build up of chlorine and hydrochloric acid (aka hydrochloric acid), creating chlorine gas and possibly causing illness, lung damage or in extreme cases death, the release continues.

An equipment malfunction resulted in a chemical buildup and release of chlorine gas at the Veterans Memorial Pool in Pleasant Grove in June 2019. Around 50 people fell ill and several were taken to the hospital.

Utah updated its pool rule in August 2020 to prevent similar incidents. The new rule requires all public pools to have locking systems in place by January 31, 2023.

The health department said it has issued multiple written, telephone and in-person reminders to all affected pools of the state’s new requirements and compliance deadline. These reminders included an email in October 2021 and May 2022, “a verbal, in-person reminder during each pool’s annual inspection in 2022,” a letter sent in November 2022, and a phone call in January 2023 to non-compliant pools.

Most newly built pools already meet the requirement, as the locking system is an industry-wide safety standard, the health department said. All pools operated by Salt Lake County Parks & Recreation comply with the new lockdown rule, the department said.

Beginning in the spring, inspectors will begin enforcing an additional 641 pools that operate seasonally during the summer.

Bathing closures can be found on the website of the health department. Closures related to the lockdown rule begin on Wednesday and will be posted from Thursday.

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Cassidy Wixom covers communities in Utah County and is the nightly breaking news reporter for KSL.com.

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