500-plus pools, including 9 at local schools, closed by state

500-plus pools, including 9 at local schools, closed by state

500-plus pools, including 9 at local schools, closed by state

BY TIM O’BRIEN AND CASEY TONER

ctoner@southtownstar.com

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.”

Southland closings

Cook County

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

Will County

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.)