St. Paul city officials Wednesday stepped in to bridge a gap in swimming pool safety regulation after two near-drownings at a North End apartment complex this week.
Ricardo Cervantes, director of the department of safety and inspections, said Mayor Chris Coleman has directed his department to respond to complaints about abandoned or unused public pools on private or public land.
It's not completely clear who's responsible for inspecting or regulating pools that are closed or abandoned, which was the case at the Princeton Place apartment complex at 461 Maryland Av. when two boys climbed through a locked fence Monday afternoon and got submerged in murky runoff water in the abandoned pool.
St. Paul firefighters pulled the two brothers, ages 7 and 10, from the pool Monday. The younger boy remains hospitalized in critical condition, while his brother has been released. Fire crews quickly drained runoff from recent rains that had filled the deep end of the pool to a depth of about 6 feet.
Residents of the complex said they had warned kids to stay clear of the deteriorated pool, but that it had remained a safety concern.
It was not clear as late as Tuesday whether the pool had been inspected since being cited by the city in 2012 for having an unsecured fence and stagnant water. The state Health Department inspects and licenses pools for apartment complexes, but it only took over those duties for St. Paul in July 2013. Since then, the Princeton Place pool has not been in operation and would not have been subject to state inspections and licensing, Health Department spokesman Doug Schultz said this week.
"This situation clearly reveals a gap in who regulates unused pools," Cervantes said Wednesday in a letter to St. Paul City Council members. He vowed that, "in the absence of coverage from the state for unlicensed and unused pools, we will take action to clarify the city's role in picking up where the state leaves off in an ordinance change by the fall."
In the meantime, he said, the city will respond to any public complaints regarding unused or abandoned pools. Residents should call 651-266-8989 with any reports of a pool that could be a public nuisance or safety hazard, Cervantes said.