HOUSTON -- Houston Mayor Annise Parker pledged to pass a new swimming pool safety ordinance Wednesday after a series of 11 News I-Team reports into flaws with the city s pool inspection program.
We have tragically high numbers of drownings and we will address that from the regulatory side, Mayor Parker told reporters after city council adjourned for its weekly session.
The I-Team revealed how pools at apartments, condos, fitness centers, parks and hotels can be drowning in safety problems,but city inspectors can t do much about it, because the hazards are not covered under current city code.
The result? Pools with no life-ring buoys routinely passed a city inspection.
Pools with missing body hooks to snag a drowning victim also managed to pass, as did pools with no depth markers, emergency phones or no diving signs.
Those items are included in State of Texas swimming pool regulations.
City inspectors also gave passing grades to pools with life-threatening drain covers, which can trap a swimmer underwater from the powerful suction generated by a pool s pump. In December 2008, a federal law, called the Virginia Graeme Baker Act, required newly designed protective drain covers to be installed at commercial pools. But Houston has failed to adopt similar regulations, and in turn, city inspectors have no enforcement power over the safety threat.
Certainly by October, we re going to incorporate that into a new ordinance, Mayor Parker said.
It s unfortunate that this act passed several years ago and we hadn t made the change yet, but we re moving as rapidly as possible to take care of that, Parker said.
The mayor said other safety items will be included in the new ordinance, and the city attorney s office and Department of Health would be working together to craft the language.
If there s something there that can save someone s life, than we should be able in some way, to make sure it s required to be there, said Council Member Sue Lovell, who chairs the Development and Regulatory Affairs Committee.
Mayor Parker also addressed the massive backlog of needed inspectionsthe I-Team identified: 1,300 pools past due on their annual city inspections.
We are getting the tools now to allow them to do their job better, Parker said.
Within weeks, the mayor said, inspectors would be receiving laptops to input inspection data in the field and link up to a central database.
Currently, inspection reports are handwritten and stored in file cabinets at the Department of Health.