More than 700 health inspections for recreational pools across Ottawa were conducted in the last six years, but only two have successfully passed without a single violation, according to an analysis of data from the Ottawa Public Health records.
The discomforting percentage represents the total of Ottawa pools found in spas, hotels, apartments and City facilities that did comply with the Ontario public pool legislation.
The success rate is closer to zero than even 0.01 per cent.
“Health inspectors will determine if the infraction is deemed a health hazard, meaning it poses an immediate threat to the safety of the public by causing risk of potential drowning or exposure to water-borne illness,” said Michelle Goulet, a public health inspector with the Ottawa Public Health.
Although heath inspectors can close pools if there are too many or extreme violations present, closures are rare. From January 2011 to September 2017, a total of 713 health inspections did not pass inspections without at least one checkbox unchecked.
The Brookstreet hotel in Kanata, a staple known for hosting touring celebrities, is among the top two pool amenities with the largest number of health inspection violations.
When asked about their 67 infractions, the hotel declined to comment. Kanata’s Holiday Inn also refused to be interviewed about their health inspection history.
It takes approximately six years to get to Jupiter by spacecraft. In that timeframe, both the Brookstreet Hotel and the Holiday Inn locations would not be one of the two successful inspections, according to the Ottawa Public Health’s data.
“People leave messes,” said Kurtis Baker, a maintenance helper at the Richcraft Recreation Complex in Kanata.
An infraction can be inadequate pool rules signage, incorrect chlorine levels and even lousy air supply. While legislation and policies vary between different kinds of pools, employees may be responsible for weekly, monthly or quarterly ‘check ups’ of the building as well.
“If we didn’t do any of our assigned duties, we’d probably have diseases running through the changerooms just because our presence isn’t there,” Baker said. “There’s snacks on the floor, there’s footprints, there’s boogers—there’s everything sitting on the floor.”
These behind-the-scenes staff carry a heavy load of responsibility. If basic duties are left unnoticed, like daily administration paperwork— the most common infraction in the city— facilities suffer on public record.
“Logging our hours is mandatory proof that we’re doing our work,” said Baker. “We’re doing preventative maintenance—not maintenance after the fact— but we’re trying to prevent a problem.”
During Baker’s interview, he was the only maintenance employee on site. Three staff called in sick, one had a flat tire, so he was left with an entire team’s duties for multiple hours.
Having worked at multiple City of Ottawa facilities, the 26-year-old has been a part of various teams with different levels of training, operating methods and experience.
“At the end-of-night cleaning, it’s hot, you’re working hard, it’s fast-paced,” Baker said, sitting up straighter in his chair. “It’s aggravating when you see someone go back to the office and sit on their phone for ten minutes.”
The biggest source of tension for Baker and his colleagues has been teamwork and initiative on following through with delegated maintenance duties.
“It’s easier [for someone to pick up a mop] instead of getting in there and scrubbing toilets,” he said.
Of course, all this happens away from the public eye.
“This is a job where you don’t really get a pat on the back from patrons,” Baker said. “You get the stick not the carrot, but you just do it because it’s your job.”
Cover photo by Christine Vezarov.