500-plus pools, including 9 at local schools, closed by state
06 Oct 500-plus pools, including 9 at local schools, closed by state
BY TIM O’BRIEN AND CASEY TONER
The Illinois Department of Public Health has shut down more than 500 swimming pools across the state, including 10 at Southland high schools and dozens of other area locations from hotels to condo associations to community pools.
The pools were closed as of Saturday because they were not equipped with new, safer drains. Pools that were closed include those at Argo, Homewood-Flossmoor, Mount Carmel, Reavis, T.F. South and Thornton high schools, and four Bremen Community High School District 228 schools: Oak Forest, Tinley Park, Bremen and Hillcrest.
District 228 Supt. Bill Kendall said getting the permits needed for the new drains was a lengthy process and officials tried to comply with state law. School officials thought they would change the drains in June but were delayed, he said.
“We didn’t think they would close us,” Kendall said. “We’re doing everything in our power to get the pools open.”
The new drain requirement — signed into law in 2007 — was spurred by the 2002 death of 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker, who drowned after she was trapped by the suction from a hot tub drain. State law requires anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices.
Still, once the drains are installed, the state health department has to inspect them before the pools can be reopened. It’s uncertain exactly how long they’ll be closed.
The Tinley Park Park District spent more than $60,000 last year to replace a drain in its fitness center and 26 drains at its water park. John Curran, a park district official, said he was surprised that some were caught off guard by the regulations.
“A lot of pools must have had the feeling that it didn’t apply to them to not have reacted to it,” he said.
Terrence R. LeBeau, a general manager with Chicago-based swimming pool equipment supplier Halogen Supply Co., said public pool owners were given an earlier compliance date that the state had not enforced.
“It maybe made people say, ‘Eh, that’s never going to happen. They’re never going to shut down our pools,’ ” he said.
Now, the pools are closed until new drains are installed. That leaves young swimmers and their coaches scrambling to find somewhere to swim in the meantime.
“We’re scrambling right now because we can’t host practices or meets until we’re allowed back in the pool,” Oak Forest athletic director Sue Bonner said. “You can’t cancel the season.”
Oak Forest is the defending champion in the South Suburban Blue conference in girls swimming and diving. With the swimming postseason fast approaching, Oak Forest coach Drew Fowler hopes his team can make the most of it. Oak Forest has held morning practices at Shepard this week while also focusing on biking and weight training.
“You adjust because there’s nothing you can do about it,” Fowler said. “Things are going to happen that don’t go your way. This is nothing earth-shattering where we can’t respond.”
The pool at Richards High School in Oak Lawn remains open because new drains were installed this summer.
“It’s tragic, and I wish we could help, but our pool is almost totally utilized with us, club teams, swim lessons,” Richards coach Joel Staszewski said. “This is the time of the year you’re getting ready for sectionals, and it’s bad, really bad.”
Marybeth Egan, the Tinley Park High School girls swimming and diving team head booster, is among those frustrated by the pool closures. Her 16-year-old daughter, Hannah, and the rest of the team have been practicing in pools at Lincoln-Way North High School and an LA Fitness in Tinley Park.
The pool closings are disruptive to the team, she said, especially for those swimmers vying for college scholarships. She also said District 228 “dropped the ball” by not bringing its pools up to code earlier.
Tinley Park sophomore Hannah Schultz finished 11th in the state last season in the 100-yard butterfly.
“I want them to fix the problem as soon as they can,” she said. “I don’t know how long that will take. I just hope that if they drain our pool, they don’t find anything else wrong with it.”
Argo High School Summit
Best Western Hotel South Holland
Best Western Inn & Suites Midway Burbank
Beverly Country Club Evergreen Park
Bremen High School Midlothian
Bremen Towne Estates Tinley Park
Brementowne Villas Tinley Park
Burbank Water Park Burbank
Calumet Park Pool Calumet Park
Country Homes of Creekside Matteson
Country Inn & Suites Matteson
Crossroads Apartments Sauk Village
Evergreen Aqua Park Evergreen Park
Fire Pro Sport and Fitness South Holland
Green Lake Family Aquatic Center Calumet City
Hillcrest High School Country Club Hills
Hilton Garden Inn South Holland
Hilton Oak Lawn Oak Lawn
Holiday Inn Matteson Matteson
Homewood-Flossmoor High School Flossmoor
Homewood Suites Orland Park
Howard Johnson Lansing
Lan-Oak Park District Lansing
Life Time Fitness Orland Park
Linway Estates Village Chicago Heights
Melanie Fitness Center Dolton
Motel 6 Calumet Park
Mount Carmel High School Chicago
Mount Greenwood Park Chicago
Oak Forest High School Oak Forest
Oak Hills Country Club Village Palos Heights
Palos Health & Fitness Center Orland Park
Provincetown Improvement Assoc. Country Club Hills
Ravisloe Country Club Homewood
Reavis High School Burbank
Regal Chateaux Swimming Pool Crestwood
Riverwood Apt. Homes Lansing
Rodeway Inn East Hazel Crest
Rosa L. Parks Middle School Dixmoor
Skyline Pool Glenwood
South Suburban YMCA Harvey
Stonebridge HOA Oak Lawn
T.F. South High School Lansing
Thornton High School Harvey
Tinley Park High School Tinley Park
Traditions of Olympia Fields Olympia Fields
Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart Frankfort
La Quinta Inn & Suites Tinley Park
Source: Illinois Department of
Public Health (IDPH list did not take into
account pools already closed.)