State Investigating Possible Pesticide Misuse in Longmont Rec Center Pool Area

November 13, 2018

A lifeguard keeps watch over the pool at the Longmont Recreation Center in this file photo.

State officials are investigating a possible misuse of a pesticide inside the Longmont Recreation Center’s pool area that occurred last week while at least one person was swimming.

Colorado Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Christi Lightcap confirmed officials are looking into the use of a pesticide at the recreation center, and Longmont Assistant City Manager Sandra Seader said city staff were contacted Wednesday by the state.

The state is investigating “based on a resident’s complaint,” Seader said, adding city officials would have no further comment until the investigation is complete.

Recreation center staff applied a pesticide to deck drains during open pool time the evening of Nov. 5, according to Joel Reich, who said he was in the pool at the time and swims there almost nightly.

He said he saw barefoot lifeguards spraying the pesticide, and alerted the Colorado Department of Agriculture about his concern the next day.

An email from Longmont Recreation Area Supervisor Karen Charles to Reich, shared with the Times-Call by Reich, shows the city in the future will use the services of a pest control company to eradicate insects living within the pool deck drains.

“First, let me apologize for the spraying of deck drains last night in the pool area,” Charles stated in the email. “Although staff was trying to stop a potential nasty bug infestation within the deck drains, the decision to take care of this situation during open pool time was lacking in judgement. The aquatic management staff is aware of this situation and will be assessing this personnel matter.”

The pesticide in question is used to treat bed bugs and lice, Charles stated in the email.

But Seader said the chemical used did not match what was needed to kill the insects in the drain, which she described as not an infestation of lice or bed bugs, but rather a few “drain bugs” that the recreation center pool deck drains sometimes have within them, and that the city has a process in place for mitigating.

A safety data sheet for the pesticide product in question shows it was a bed bug-, lice- and dust mite-control product made by Illinois-based Claire Manufacturing. It contains flammable aerosols, propane and butane, and the insecticide permethrin, according to the fact sheet, which calls for protective gloves when using the product. The product can cause inflamed skin, rashes and a need for immediate medical attention if swallowed or inhaled, the sheet indicates.

A lifeguard used what he thought would kill the bugs when he saw them, but it wasn’t the right product nor process for doing so, Seader said.

“There is generally a routine protocol that is done to keep those bugs at bay. ... He just grabbed what he thought he should and sprayed it. This is a normal situation for this recreation center and probably other recreation centers, as well,” Seader said. “It was a few little bugs that came up out of the drain.”

The pest control company hired by the city will perform after-hours insect treatment as deemed appropriate, Charles stated in her email to Reich.

“This is something we have routine maintenance for in general. And it somehow got missed recently,” Seader said.

Reich claims the pesticide application in question is only the latest instance in what he views as unhealthy management of the rec center pool area.

He said he has pleaded with the center’s staff to enforce a requirement that patrons shower in the facility’s locker rooms before entering the pool, as he has observed many people — even some still sweaty from workouts — skip rinsing off before taking a dip.

“It is the suggestion of the city that people shower before entering the pool water, but it is not mandatory,” Seader said. “This summer, the recreation center staff conducted a public outreach campaign to help residents understand the importance of showering.

An annual survey by a national organization, the Water Quality and Health Council, shows 52 percent of this year’s respondents admit to never showering before swimming, and only 29 percent said they shower for at least a minute, which is the length of time needed to remove most contaminants from a swimmer, the organization’s website states.

“I think that showering before you enter the pool is a personal decision. We have 750,000 (annual) visitors to the rec center. We don’t check them before they get in,” Seader said.

Chris Wiant, chair of the Water Quality and Health Council, in a May news release outlined why showering before entering a public pool is crucial to prevent the spread of germs: “Swimming is a rite of summertime, but swimmers’ unhealthy swimming habits can make loved ones sick. We all share the water we swim in. And although chlorine and other pool chemical disinfectants are effective at disinfecting pools, they might be used up by contaminants, such as pee, sweat, and dirt from swimmers’ bodies. Chlorine mixing with these contaminants is what makes swimmers’ eyes red, not chlorine in and of itself. Protect yourself and loved ones by showering before going in the pool and don’t pee in the water.”

Reich, in a text message, said, “My primary interest is in seeing better management at Longmont recreation facilities. I’m hoping this incident can be a way to focus attention on addressing what I believe is a culture of unsafe management, with minimal attention paid to the patron experience.”

The Longmont Recreation Center has the only open public pool in the city right now. Centennial Swimming Pool remains closed due to damage caused in August by a faulty sump pump; the pool could possibly reopen in January.

The city kept the heated outdoor Sunset Swimming Pool open beyond its normal September closing date to provide a temporary alternative to Centennial, but it was closed for the season on Oct. 8, when overnight temperatures were predicted to drop below freezing.

Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, slounsberry@prairiemountainmedia.com and twitter.com/samlounz .

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