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Water Recreation Safety

The Water Recreation Program Staff work to reduce the risk of unintentional drowning and to prevent illness for people who swim, soak, or play in public pool, spas, hot tubs or natural bodies of water through the following activities:

  • Conducting routine inspections of public swimming pools, spas and hot tubs.  During inspections staff:
    • Check the levels of chemicals in the pool to make certain that the pool water contains enough chlorine or bromine to prevent harmful bacteria or virus from reaching unsafe levels.
    • Make certain that fences and gates that help to keep small children  from entering the pool area without a parent or guardian meet minimum standards.
    • Check to make certain pool operators have all the necessary equipment needed to respond to emergencies.
    • Review the records kept by pool operators that show how frequently they test the pool and the results of the testing.
  • Investigate drowning and near drowning incidents.
  • Investigate possible illnesses.
  • Investigate complaints.
  • Provide community education opportunities to lifeguards, pool operators, and community groups on water recreation safety.

2014 Pool Conference

The Whatcom County Health Department hosted it's 11th Annual Pool Conference on April 16, 2014.

Frequently Asked Questions

I was swimming in a pool and a day later I noticed I had a rash, what should I do?
Contact your health care provider first and tell them that you developed a rash after swimming in a pool.  They can evaluate the need for treatment to make you well.  Contact our office and let us know the name of the pool.  We will investigate the incident and attempt to determine the cause of the rash.

I was swimming in a lake and developed what my neighbor called swimmers itch.  What should I do?
Contact your health care provider for treatment.  Contact our department to report when and where you went swimming.

What is swimmers itch anyway?
Swimmers itch usually refers to a rash caused by a little parasite that burrows under your skin and dies.  To avoid the rash, you should shower immediately after leaving the water and towel dry and put on some dry clothes.  Try to remove little water droplets before they dry on your skin.  The little parasite lives in the water and can survive in a water droplet long enough to burrow under your skin.

Why do the hotels always have a big fence and gate around their pool?
Unintentional drowning remains as a leading cause of death for small children.  The fence and gate keep the unattended small children away from the pool.

I went swimming and the water was so cloudy I couldn't see the bottom of the pool, is this a problem?
Yes, not being able to detect distressed or drowning bathers is always a cause for alarm. Additionally, poor water clarity is often a result of poor filtration, poor disinfection, poor water balance, slow turnover rates, and over-saturation of chemical stabilizer. Report this immediately to the pool facility's person in charge, and then call our office. A pool in this condition is required by state law to shut down until this condition is corrected.

What is the age limit for bathers to swim alone in a limited use pool?
If a child 12 years of age or less is using the pool, a responsible adult 18 years or older must accompany the child, and be at the pool deck at all times the child uses the facility.If an individual between 13 years of age and 17 years of age is using the pool, at least one other person (13-17 year old) must be at the pool facility. Therefore, only an adult - 18 years or older, is allowed to swim alone in a limited use facility.

Contact Information:
Whatcom County Health Department
Environmental Health
Water Recreation Program
509 Girard Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

Phone: (360) 676-6724
Fax: (360) 676-6771

Program Supervisor: Tom Kunesh


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