PALM DESERT, Calif. - Two emergencies at the same pool -- in two months. Now, KESQ News Channel 3's I-Team is working alongside safety inspectors to learn why. We're digging through reports and asking questions about your family's safety.
Carolinn Shay is an investigator with the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health, testing the waters of thousands of pools and water parks throughout the Coachella Valley.
"We're like the foot soldiers out in the field that do the on-site field inspections and work," she said.
Showing up unannounced, she and other inspectors focus on making sure pools are structurally sound, and checking on what's inside.
"I'm looking for the sanitation in the water," Shay said. "I do a chemical analysis to make sure that the water is being maintained in a sanitary manner, so that it doesn't become a breeding ground for pathogens."
A typical testing kit she and other inspectors across the county use to test pools and water parks is called the ColorQ kit. Shay said the kit tests for chemicals such as free chlorine, pH and Cyanuric acid, making sure that the water is clean and safe.
While she said most pools are safe, there are red flags inspectors look for that could result in an immediate closure.
"Suction hazards that aren't mitigated in an appropriate manner, serious chemical imbalences, serious algae growing that's impacting the water clarity, so that you can't see the structural integrity of the pool," Shay said. "If certain signage or safety equipment is missing, that could be another one."
KESQ's I-Team decided to go along for an inspection at the Palm Canyon Resort and Spa in Palm Springs.
While cameras were denied on property by resort management, News Channel 3 found out their pools were crystal clear.
"They have a certified pool operator there, their law books were done to the specifications of the law," Shay said. "Their chemicals, for the most part, were within regulatory limits. They had their necessary safety equipment. They had their lifeguard certifications. So, overall, it was a good inspection."
But the I-Team also wanted to dive into other spots, requesting inspection reports from nearly two dozen pools around the Coachella Valley, including large-chain resorts, public pools and water parks.
One water park KESQ examined was Wet 'N' Wild Palm Springs.
According to their latest inspection reports, the park had no major violations.
While park managers declined to talk on camera, they released this statement:
"At Wet 'n' Wild Palm Springs our pools are sanitized and maintained with a variety of chemicals that are standard in the water park industry. Our filtration system operates 24 hours a day with a computer controlled chemical injection. In addition, the pool chemistry at Wet 'n' Wild Palm Springs is tested every 2 hours by hand to ensure the integrity of the computer systems. We strive to exceed health department standards and provide a safe and enjoyable swimming experience for all our guests."
The next place KESQ looked at was the Palm Desert Aquatic Center.
According to an inspection report from July 2016, an inspector noted a complaint involving a sick child.
However, the splash pool was already closed by pool managers due to cleaning.
Aquatic Manager David Keyes said the center has state-of-the-art technology, including automated cooling and chemical systems worth about $160,000.
"We have an automated system that will put in the chemicals, and as well as that, we manually test the chemicals, to make sure that the human element is there as well," Keyes said. "So, if there's something with the automation, it's tested every hour, 2 hours, with our staff that's here so that if anything needs to be troubleshooted, in terms of the mechanical equipment. So, it operates itself. But, at times, it'll need a human hand to make sure it's where it should be."
Other properties we looked at included the Residence Inn in Palm Desert, which was cited for black algae in June.
According to management, the one-time issue possibly stemmed from high temperatures.
Facilities that inspectors closed after inspections included the Marriott Desert Springs Villas in Palm Desert, Travelodge in Cathedral City and Days Inn in Indio.
The reasons for the Desert Springs Villas and Days Inn were due to a loose, missing, or damaged underwater light, while the Travelodge was for water quality.
All three either declined, weren't available or did not return KESQ's request for comment.
But as summer goes on, those like Keyes and Shay hope to continue keeping pools and families safe.
"It's always great to have another pair of eyes to come in, and look at your facility," Keyes said. "It's also great to have that signoff, to say, 'Hey, you guys are doing everything exactly how you should be. Great job. Keep it up."
The I-Team also obtained the latest inspection reports and documents related to two emergencies at the Chuckwalla Pool at the Marriott Shadow Ridge resort in Palm Desert
Four people were shocked in May, and last month, others rushed to the hospital after reports of a chemical vapor.
Their inspection from March found no issues with underwater lights, however days after the May incident, investigators noted, "Light is not working located adjacent to incident area."
An independent contractor then releasing a letter citing no issues with equipment by the family pool, but wiring issues with the west spa motors and heaters near the lounge pool.
KESQ was the first to report the likely cause of the July chemical issue, with experts saying a chemical feed followed by a backwash while the pool was open.
The I-Team has reached out to management at the resort for comment on the investigations, but have not returned our requests.
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