2NEWS Investigators, Oklahoma State University team up to test Tulsa pool and splash pad water

TULSA - Like many Tulsa parents, Susan Grunwald takes her kids to a city pool to beat the heat.

"We're here about three or four times a week this summer," said Grunwald.

And she's not too worried about what's in the water.

"It appears to be pretty clean. My kids have really bad skin allergies and we haven't had any problems," said Grunwald.

RELATED LINK: Do you practice healthy swimming behaviors? (http://bit.ly/13hhXPB)

But the 2NEWS Investigators wanted to make sure the water you're swimming in is as clean as it looks.

We collected water from Whiteside, McClure, Berry and Lacy pools, and we took the samples to Oklahoma State University researcher Jay Bullard for testing.


View Tulsa public pools and splash pads (http://bit.ly/poolsandsplashpads) in a larger map .

Bullard tried to separate human and animal fecal bacteria from the water and culture it in the lab.

What we didn't want to see from our pool samples is a culture like one he grew from Sand Springs Lake water -- full of blue and red spots, meaning different colonies of bacteria.

"So the blues are bad. The reds are not really bad, but we'd rather not have them," Bullard said.

Blue spots were E. coli bacteria. Red spots were other kinds of fecal bacteria.

The samples we collected couldn't have been better. They were completely free of fecal bacteria.

"Four of your samples were very similar to city water, that we couldn't find anything," Bullard said.

They were results Grunwald was pleased to hear.

"Now I'm a whole lot happier about it, now that I know it's not filth," she said.

Tulsa's parks department installed an automated chemical system at every pool. The water is tested before a pool opens each day and three more times over the course of the day.

RELATED LINK: FAQs about public and private pools from the Tulsa Health Department (http://bit.ly/11YgYNV)

We shared the results with maintenance manager Mike Battenfield.

"We take a lot of pride in what we do, and I was really tickled to find out that it was something positive," he said. "My crew does a wonderful job, and it's a good reflection on everything they do."

But remember, our OSU researcher said four samples were clean. In addition to the pools we tested, we also tested water from two city splash pads with sprinklers. Those results weren't as good.

Bullard cultured red bacteria colonies in the water from Highland and Carbondale splash pads.

"I think it makes sense that it'd be a splash pad that's contaminated," Bullard said. "It's just more of the natural, environmental bacteria getting into it."

The contamination he's talking about is nonhuman fecal bacteria. It can come from animals and birds, and some just live naturally in the soil.

While the amount of bacteria we found isn't enough to harm you, Grunwald decided she probably won't take any chances.

"That's gross. No. We'll probably stick with the pool or stick with the sprinkler at the house," she said.

If you need to cool off or get the kids out of the house, city pools are a safe choice, but splash pads may not be entirely free of fecal bacteria.

We were unable to test Reed Pool, which was closed when we tried to collect a water sample. As is protocol, the pool was closed for 24 hours after someone vomited in the water.

MORE FROM THE TULSA CITY-COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT

Public Bathing Facility Standards (http://bit.ly/11anfel)

Public Bathing Place Operational Regulations (http://bit.ly/14lsXIy)

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