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Pool inspector always makes a splash on the job

July 03, 1997

By SAMANTHA KRULEWITZ

Staff Writer

On hot days, Kimmy Armstrong spends a lot of time around swimming pools, but she doesn't go in the water.

Armstrong, 34, of Hagerstown, is a registered sanitarian for the Washington County Health Department. She is in charge of the swimming pool program, campground program, mobile home park program, certificate of potability for new wells, and low priority food service inspections, and she teaches water correction classes.

On Wednesday, she arrived at the Venice Inn armed with a variety of tests and chemicals. As she walks up, pool operator Barry Peters starts pacing.

"As a pool operator, I'm with anticipation when she does her thing," Peters said, "Not that I don't think it's right - I know it is. But she'll shut me down in a minute if it's not right."

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Armstrong, who's been with the health department for a little over nine years, checks the equipment room first. All the pipes, gauges and other instruments must be labeled in case Peters isn't around, and something goes wrong, she said.

"All pools are required to have a certified pool operator," Peters said. "Some have to be on site and some have to be within 15 minutes of the pool. If this was just a hotel pool, I wouldn't have to be on site, but we also have public members."

Armstrong inspects 60 pools at 39 facilities around the county. There are safety issues to be checked and regulations to follow, she said

"I check the disinfectant level, the pH level, total alkalinity, qualities of chlorine, and calcium hardness," she said. "If the levels of pH or alkalinity are up or down, it can cause eye irritation. If the calcium is too low, the water can take calcium out of concrete floored pools and can actually take chunks out of the concrete."

When inspecting the pool, Armstrong said she looks at the water level and the temperature, and makes sure the drain grates are not loose or off.

"With the heat index, there is a saturation index," she said. "The hotter the sun, it does something to the chemicals. It can cause an algae problem."

Armstrong graduated from Shepherd College in 1986 with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry.

"We have to take 20 continuing education units every two years," she said. "The pool operators take a class and have to pass a test, then they have a refresher course every three years."

Peters said he checks the chemicals in his pools once every hour to make sure the levels are all where they should be.

"Nobody's gonna get into the pool with a blue suit and get out with a white one," Peters said. "That's why we check the chemicals every hour."

At the end of each inspection, Armstrong tells the operator if anything needs to be fixed before the next inspection.

"Pools are fun to do," she said. "I try to have cooperation with the operators as much as possible."

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