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NDEE's pool program works to protect swimmers

Summer is underway, and for many, pools can be a place to cool off and have fun. The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) works to ensure those pools are operated safely and that swimmers’ health is protected.

NDEE oversees the state’s Swimming Pool Program, which trains and certifies pool operators, conducts inspections of public swimming pools and reviews and issues construction permits for public pools.

The agency began administering this program on July 1, 2021, when LB 148 took effect. This bill created an environmental safety program and transferred the Safe Drinking Water Programs and the Water Well Standards Programs to NDEE.

Every public pool in the state is required to have a certified pool operator on staff who is responsible for complying with state regulations on pool equipment, operation, maintenance and safety. Pools in hotels/motels, apartments and fitness facilities must have a certified pool operator available within 60 minutes of the facility. Nebraska currently has 2,815 pool operators with active licenses.

Pool operators must renew their certificates every two years. After applying for the exam through NDEE, applicants will receive instructions to access study materials and their online exam.

On Jan. 10, 2021, NDEE launched its automated Swimming Pool Operator Exam Certificate process. Previously, NDEE teammates had to create exam passage or failure letters and work to add that information to the agency’s public records management system. With this old process, pool operators had to wait 5-7 business days to receive their certification.

The new process automates the passage/failure letter and the record keeping process, which means operators get their results within an hour of finishing their test.

NDEE’s Environmental Health Scientists also inspect the state’s public pools starting in April. These inspections include city pools; pools operated by an apartment, condominium, property owner association, hotels or motels; and pools operated at fitness centers. Environmental Health Scientists also inspect spray parks, spas, and wading pools.

Over the course of a year, NDEE conducts roughly 815 pool inspections, 237 of which are indoor and inspected twice annually, 331 are outdoor pools and are inspected once a year. Roughly 40% of pools that are inspected are closed for water quality issues or safety violations.

The agency’s engineering team reviews plans for new and modified public swimming pools and issues construction permits. All public pools are required to submit plans and specifications for the department’s review before construction begins.

By certifying pool operators, inspecting pools and reviewing pool plans, NDEE ensures that swimmers and their health are protected when they go to the pool to escape the heat.

This article was previously published April 28, 2022. It was updated and republished June 22, 2023.