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High and Dry? Federal law may shut down county pools in 2009

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - Virginia Graeme Baker had no connection to Bullitt County.

However, the tragic death of the seven-year-old girl in 2002 could have a major affect upon those who like to swim at public pools in Bullitt County.

Unless the four county pools are equipped with new anti-entrapment devices, it appears they will not open for the season.

And besides the public swimmers, there are over 120 members of the Bullitt County Dolphins who may not be able to compete this summer.

Bullitt Fiscal Court members were alerted of the issue recently by parks director Kendall Grant.

The U.S. Congress enacted a pool and safety act in 2007 in honor of Baker, who died when she drown after being caught by the suction of a spa. It would not allow the girl to pull herself off the bottom of the spa.

Effective last December, all aquatic facilities must have drains covered by approved grates to prevent anyone from being caught by the sucking pressure created by the filtration system.

Neal and Sebrina Gish spoke with court members about the problem they are facing. Sebrina, who is president of the Bullitt County swim team, and her husband went to talk with Bob Osborne of Royal Pools about the possible solutions.

He briefly looked at the plans for the Bullitt Central pool, which is home to the Dolphins and three swim meets that bring in participants from across the state, and agreed to meet with county leaders.

The consultation would be $1,000 and that would include an outline on what needed to be done to bring that pool into compliance, said Sebrina Gish.

She said a camera must be taken through the piping system to determine if the actual filtration system was what was on the original plans.

As part of the discussion, training would be done so local personnel could make repairs to the other three pools, she added.

While nothing was officially determined, Gish said she didn’t see how the repairs could be made in time to salvage the season for the Dolphins. The team could find another location to practice and then attend away meets.

The three home meets are important to the organization, especially since bigger country club teams and association squads come in to compete.

Neal Gish said there were rough estimates on the repairs to the Bullitt Central pool. Those ranged from $9,000-$15,000.

“The repairs must be made if the pool is going to open,” said Gish.

He said getting a good picture of the lines was the first requirement.

Larry Hatfield, who serves on the Shepherdsville City Council, said the town has a camera truck for its sewer department and he felt confident the county would use it at no charge.

Magistrate Eddie Bleemel said that is good because he felt the cities needed to take over the operation of the four pools.

Since they are taking portions of the county insurance premium tax, Bleemel said they should be willing to take over the pools.

County attorney Walter Sholar wondered why the drain areas could not be repaired.

Neal Gish said several of the sump pumps would need replacement and there are issues, such as the width of the drain that must be taken into account.

To get specifications on the work and then to secure bids, Neal Gish said he felt it might be fall before repairs could be made.

As a citizen, he would be opposed to opening any of the pools without seeing if they are in compliance.

Sholar agreed.

But he said the Maryville pool might be closer to being in compliance and that could be an option. Practice is supposed to being June 9 with the first home meet on June 15.

Sebrina Gish said the pool could be made to work for the swim meets.

The pools have been a point of concern for years. Each week, it appears the pools collectively lose about $4,000.

Bleemel said with budgetary issues, he had concerns about opening the four pools.

“The way it looks right now, I don’t think the pools will be open,” said Bleemel.

The county has pools at Bullitt Central, behind Maryville Elementary, next to Mount Washington Middle and behind Lebanon Junction Elementary. They traditionally open the first weekend after school dismisses.

The only official decision was to see if Shepherdsville could take a camera to the Bullitt Central piping system.

Facts on drowning

*Drowning is the number two accidental injury-related killer of children ages 1-14. Approximately 260 drowning deaths occur in swimming pools where the child is under the age of 5.

*Over 2,725 children are treated annually for pool-related injuries.

*From 1985-2004, at least 33 percent of children age 14 and under died as a result of pool and spa entrapment and 100 were seriously injured.

*Many drowning deaths may have involved entrapment but not classified that way.

*Entrapment can also occur when a child’s hair or swimsuit gets tangled in a drain or on an underwater object such as a ladder.

*Forty-one percent of the deaths were hair-related entrapments.

To learn more about this issue, go to safekids.org