TAMPA — The city has closed three of its pools because of a federal anti-drowning law requiring drain covers, and the pools' futures are uncertain.
Roy Jenkins Pool on Davis Islands and Williams Park Pool in East Tampa will be closed all summer, Tampa's parks and recreation spokeswoman Linda Carlo said.
And in their present state, they can't meet the new federal anti-drowning standard and also keep their water clean enough for public swimming.
Then, there's Interbay Pool in South Tampa. It shut down in May for routine maintenance and to add the new drain cover. But workers found that the cover slowed the water going through the filtration system. They are trying to fix the problem so that it can be reopened.
"We feel pretty good about it but it's still up in the air," Carlo said.
Water in city pools must be filtered four times a day.
Adding the drain covers to Jenkins, Williams and Interbay slowed the flow rate to the filters, making them unable to meet state health requirements for water purity.
With operational and budget cuts, the city opted not to spend more money to upgrade plumbing and filtration systems at Jenkins and Williams pools.
The two pools closed in August. They usually reopen when school lets out, but the city found the problem when it filled them in June, and kept them closed.
The federal law applies to all publicly used pools and spas, including city pools and those at hotels, private clubs, apartments, community centers and amusement parks.
Pool owners were required to comply by December 2008. The law affects 37,000 pools in the state. The drain covers are dome shaped or have a little step edge and cost as little as $30.
Former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III championed the law after his 7-year-old granddaughter died in a spa when the drain's suction trapped her underwater in 2002.
Tampa's seasonal pools are usually open nine weeks in the summer. Jenkins Pool, which opened in the 1920s, averaged a weekly attendance of 349 last summer.
"It's old, way past the life of a pool," Carlo said.
It is too early, however, to pull the plug on Jenkins. Using money from a negotiation with Tampa General Hospital, the city is assessing all the recreational areas on Davis Islands, including Jenkins Pool.
Williams Pool was built in the 1980s and averaged 266 swimmers per week last year. But the pool's deck also has problems, including erosion. And there is another city pool not far away at Cyrus Greene Park, Carlo said.
"We thought there was something we could do," Carlo said. "But there's nothing we can do."
With 10 city pools currently open, Carlos said residents are never far from a place to swim safely.
Even before the law, swimmers were not at danger from suction in Tampa's municipal pools.
"We don't have direct suction filtration in our pools," Carlos said. "It's a passive filtration. If you stood over a drain, you would not feel any suction."
But the city still must comply with the law.
Carlo said one child drowned in Tampa's pools in the past two decades. The death was about 15 years ago at Riverfront Pool. It was not due to suction from filtration.
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3431.