UPDATE: A popular indoor water park remained open for more than five months while public health officials investigated numerous health code violations, including lack of chlorine, broken equipment and insufficient water testing.
“There are improvements that can be made to this system,” said Johnson County Public Health Director Doug Beardsley.
The Wasserbahn Waterpark Resort, located in the Clarion Inn in Williamsburg, was closed indefinitely Monday after the hotel’s owner withdrew an appeal of a closure order issued in June.
Clarion owners agreed Friday to close the Wasserbahn until they can hire an experienced engineer to audit the water park’s equipment and procedures and compare those with original design plans for the facility, opened in 2004. Owners also must hire a pool management company.
The closure, expected to last at least a month, came five months after a March 27 complaint from a woman who said her husband developed an open sore on his arm after swimming at the Wasserbahn on March 24.
“She was concerned that the pool did not smell like chlorine at the time,” the complaint states. “She also said that you could not see the sides or the bottom of the pool. She stated it had a murky feel and the bottom felt dirty/sandy.”
The complaint triggered a series of visits by Johnson County inspectors, who contract with the state to inspect pools in Iowa County.
Inspectors prepared three corrective action plans, each designed to help the Clarion clean the pools, repair equipment and keep chlorine in safe levels. Lack of chlorine creates an environment where bacteria and parasites can multiply and sicken swimmers.
Repeated inspections showed inadequate chlorine, poor record keeping and broken equipment. Hotel staff also failed to return inspectors’ phone calls and didn’t submit regular water tests as required, county officials reported.
“Clarion Inn has since March 29, 2013, repeatedly violated the administrative rules cited above and has repeatedly failed to comply with Corrective Action Plans, including repeated and ongoing failures to close the pools when the chlorine level is unacceptable…” states the June 21 closure order signed by Carmily Stone, chief of the Iowa’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services.
Johnson County Public Health “has since March 29, 2013, conducted five on-site inspections and has been in frequent, ongoing communication with Clarion Inn in an attempt to correct these deficiencies; however, the Clarion Inn has consistently failed to do so,” the order states.
In one visit, inspectors found a series of violations.
“The spa, which had been closed due to mechanical issues, had not been drained and the water was turning slight green with white foam on the top,” the inspector noted after the May 24 inspection.
The sand filter had not been repaired and the pressure gauge on the activity pool was broken, the order states. There were no records of biological samples being taken in April and staff failed to test for pH – which controls the effectiveness of chlorine – for several days because they ran out of testing drops, inspectors said.
Hotel owner Young Kim appealed the order July 16, but later withdrew the appeal and signed the consent agreement Friday.
During the five-month process, people continued to visit the water park.
The Wasserbahn, with tube slides, a 160-gallon bucket dump, geysers and a floating log walk, has been a popular Interstate 80 destination for families. Stone and Beardsley told The Gazette they were not aware of anyone who had gotten sick after swimming at the Wasserbahn during the investigation and appeal process.
“We do corrective action plans and have to do that before a facility can be closed,” Stone said.
Beardsley said the process could be accelerated. “It would probably be better if it could be speeded up,” he said.
The Wasserbahn was closed for about a week in July 2012 after a water test showed E. coli bacteria in the well that supplies the hotel. Although the dangerous bacteria weren’t found in the pool, inspectors closed the water park because of ongoing issues with chlorine deficiency.
The Wasserbahn had few health code violations from 2006 to 2011, but changed management in October 2011. A message left for Kim or a hotel manager was not immediately returned Monday afternoon.
Complaint filed March 27 –
Closure order –