The Mt. Lebanon Swim Center is closed for the season, as are community pools in Dormont, South Park, and all over the city due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents have understandably become concerned about whether they’ll find themselves poolside this summer. The result is an increase in calls at the municipal building, particularly to the inspection office.
“We’re getting a lot of calls. I would say a third of them are for people putting in above-ground pools, and two thirds are about temporary pools,” says Rodney Sarver, chief inspector. “The code calls them on-ground storable residential swimming pools … you know, those pools you can get at Walmart, Sam’s Club and Target. Some are blow-up, some have a tubular frame you build, and you stretch the lining over it.”
According to Sarver, the trouble with these pools is that they often do not meet the 2015 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code, which is a requirement for all pools in Pennsylvania. Specifically, he has never seen a temporary pool that meets the barrier requirement, which requires a 4-foot, non-climbable barrier around the pool.
“Typically, [the barrier] can be a fence, but they have to meet spacing, height requirements and construction style guidelines,” says Sarver. “A typical fence [or pre-existing fence] might not necessarily meet these requirements.”
In addition to the barrier requirement, the code also lays out guidelines for ladders, handholds, floor slopes and more—all to protect the safety of the swimmers and of small children. The 2015 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code applies to in-ground and out-of-ground permanent pools, temporary pools and hot tubs.
Temporary pools are allowed in Mt. Lebanon, however, as long as the fence or “barrier” around the pool, and all other features of the pool, comply with this state-mandated code. Permits for temporary pools are $45 and can be obtained through the inspection office at (412) 343-3408 or online.
Permanent pool permits, which can be obtained the same way, are $200, plus $35 annually while the pool is in operation. Once the permit is paid each year, the inspections office will send an inspector to take a look at the pool and make sure it meets the recommended safety standards laid out in the code.
“So it’s cheaper, permit-wise, to get a temporary pool. But at the same time, if you don’t already have a fence in compliance with the barrier requirement, you need to get a fence permit and the cost of the barrier to be constructed around that pool,” says Sarver.
Pool permit applications are issued on a first-come-first-served basis, so if the inspections office receives a lot of applications, it could take longer for permits to be issued. But generally, as long as an application is filled out thoroughly to show that a pool follows the code, it takes the inspections office two to three weeks to review and issue a permit.
“The key is making people understand the code—it’s a state requirement, not a Mt. Lebanon requirement,” says Sarver. “So do your homework … we link to the code on our website, for people to read … and obtain a permit or gain approval for a permit before you buy a pool. People can contact our office to discuss their pool or ask any questions.”
View the 2015 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code, or call (412) 343-3408 for more information.