The People’s Daily reports that officials from the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau are touting a dramatic improvement in public swimming pool water quality standards over last year, when only "57.43 percent of pools in Beijing met water quality standards."
The bureau has been administering inspections on pools since June, and the report cites a Beijing Daily article that says of the 34 pools tested in Fengtai District, eight of them received an ‘A’ rating, the highest quality health and safety rating, 18 were rated as ‘B,’ six as ‘C’ and two pools were "too bad to be graded."
Unfortunately the report does not mention the number of pools in total citywide and which ones (i.e. pools in fitness centers) were inspected. Perhaps even more troubling is why the two pools that were allegedly "too bad to be graded" were allowed to operate for so long to begin with (much less how many more pools in Beijing are like this?).
And despite the bureau’s announcement, swimmers interviewed for the piece still naturally have their reservations, provided in these "money quotes":
"The most disgusting thing about swimming pools is to find human spit floating on the water …"
"I saw people go straight into the pool after working out at the gym, without taking a shower …"
"The pool water in gyms is better than in an open-air pool … since open ones are more crowded and kids even pee in it …"
As a regular swimmer who has used a number of public and private pools in Beijing over the years, I tend to agree with the last comment and generally avoid swimming in crowded public pools for the very same reasons. Given their commercial pressures, it’s only natural to expect that pools at private health clubs are generally cleaner than their public counterparts.
But this isn’t always the case, especially when these same fitness centers get lax in their cleaning schedules (the raging case of athlete’s foot I got from one particular gym comes to mind).
These late summer months are probably the worst time as kids on vacation crowd up their parents’ fitness center pools during the day – you can always tell because the water gets so murky you can’t even see to the far end. On these occasions, one must literally weigh the benefits of a having a swim vs. the risk of exposure to lord-knows-what in the water (a situation that’s not unlike considering the pros and cons of running outdoors in Beijing).
Given these realities, the fact that the health bureau is administering inspections on pools in Beijing is certainly laudable – let’s just hope the officials in charge stay consistent … and honest.