Washington City Paper features a story on the cleanliness of water in city pools, with an emphasis on the municipal facilities managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). Over a couple of weeks in midsummer, reporter Christine MacDonald tested for bacteria levels at 27 pools and found registrable amounts of this nasty stuff at 10 of them, nine of which were DPR joints.
As the story and its comments section make clear, there’s a healthy debate over whether our tests, their timing, and their focus really do the public any good. (We think they do, but whatever.)
DPR honchos, meanwhile, insist that they’ve had a banner pool year, tests or no tests. We received a communication from the agency just before press time detailing its various successes as a pool-providing powerhouse. It comes from the irrepressible and always-accessible DPR spokesperson John Stokes.
The following is the list of claimed achievements, along with a citizen’s take on the agency’s chest-beating
DPR Claim No. 1: “No health incidents.”
Skinny: At least as far as we know. But all the things that can result from dirty pool water—-skin rashes, diarrhea, other symptoms—-aren’t always going to get reported.
DPR Claim No. 2: “For the first time, all pools opened on Memorial Day weekend (no waved opening).”
Skinny: Justified chest-beating. Round about springtime, DPR was talking about opening pools in “waves,” meaning that you might go deep into June with a dry pool in your neighborhood. Not this year. Good going, DPR!
DPR Claim No. 3: “All pool main drains are in compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool Safety Act (first area in the country to do so).”
Skinny: To be determined. Ever since Memorial Day, Washington City Paper has been deploying a special investigative team to monitor DPR compliance with VGBPSA. This is going to be one hell of a story!
DPR Claim No. 4: “Extended closing (8 pools remained opened after school started).”
Skinny: True, but hey, school starts WAY too early anyway. I mean, the 90-degree days last till mid-September, so don’t go beating the chest over staying open BEFORE Labor Day, DPR!
DPR Claim No. 5: “Lifeguard inservice trainings.”
Skinny: Claim is disqualified due to excessive wonkiness in the wording of chest-beating claim.
DPR Claim No. 6: “Extended pool hours offered at 13 pools due to extreme heat conditions in August.”
Skinny: Justified. This was a fine example of the city government showing flexibility and a great service mind-set in the middle of a heat wave.
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery