Cobb officials say not to worry about a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control that found fecal bacteria in more than half of the water samples taken from metro-area public swimming pools last summer.
The county operates six facilities with pools, two that are outdoors and four indoors.
Investigators found the gut bacteria in 58 percent of the samples taken from about 150 pools in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties. They were gathered from municipal pools or pools at waterparks, apartment complexes and clubs.
“There is absolutely no concern to be had about Cobb County swimming pools, I can tell you that. I guarantee that,” said Bob McCallister, aquatics manager for Cobb County Parks and Recreation.
County Chairman Tim Lee also expressed confidence in the county’s pools in the wake of the report.
“Resident safety is always a priority for us,” Lee said. “We employ experts in our parks system that have the right equipment and skills needed to keep our pools safe.”
McCallister said any pool that has human bodies in it will likely have traces of fecal matter. But the treatment process sanitizes whatever harmful bacteria exists.
“Oxidation is a burning process, so when chlorine hits an organic it proceeds to burn it, oxidize it,” McCallister said. “The result is a burnt organic. Once that happens there is no harmful effects of that ash, the byproduct of the oxidation.”
There are viruses that are resistant to chlorine, but those are zapped in an ultraviolet light chamber that all the pools have in their filtering system, he said.
“Our water in Cobb County pools is probably the best in the Southeast if not the nation as far as the sanitation of being safe for the public to participate in,” he said.
McCallister said he hadn’t yet seen the CDC report, and expressed disappointment that the agency didn’t provide him with a copy before making the results public. The CDC did not return calls for comment from the MDJ by press time.
“They asked us to participate with the idea that we would be able to see the report, but I haven’t seen any report,” he said.
This is the first time the CDC has tested Cobb government pools, he said.
To swim in a Cobb pool, adults pay $4.50, children $3.50 and seniors $2 with discounts given for monthly and yearly passes.
There are certain things to be aware of when planning on swimming in any pool. One is to eye the water and see that it’s clear, McCallister advised.
“If it’s not clear that’s a good sign that there is something wrong, and you could have a problem there, and I wouldn’t suggest people go swimming in water that’s not clear,” he said.
Another factor to consider is to ask about the pool’s sanitation and whether the pool’s staff keeps records on the chemical readings to ensure the proper levels of chlorine are maintained.
“You don’t want to go into a public pool or any strange pool that doesn’t have the proper level of sanitation in there because that’s when you get into trouble,” McCallister said.
Health officials advise people to shower before the pool, and not swim if they have diarrhea.