Homeowners angry after DHEC locks up community pools

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    NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Homeowners in Waterway Landing recently found themselves locked out of their community pool area with a letter saying the Department of Health and Environmental regulations require pools to have bathroom facilities.

    The property management company posted the letter on the locked gate to the pool and homeowners tell WMBF News they received the notice by email a few days ago.

    Andy Wolfe has lived at Waterway Landing for about a year and said he’s never had any problems until now.

    “Well we asked the neighbors what was going on and I looked through my email and we got an email from the HOA,” Wolfe said.

    Wolfe forwarded the letter he got to WMBF News and sent us a picture of the letter posted on the locked pool gate.

    Part of the letter said DHEC informed management and Waterway Landing saying: “Waterway Landing’s pools and spa are no longer grandfathered in regarding the DHEC regulation requiring restrooms within 300 feet of each of these bodies of water.”

    The Department of Health and Environmental Control released the following statement to WMBF News:

    Waterway Landing in Horry County has three public swimming pool permits issued by DHEC. The permits are as follows:

    1. Permit 26-I01-1, which is a Type B public pool. It was permitted in 1991 and was required to meet the requirements of the 1983 R.61-51 which states: “Minimum toilet facilities must be provided adjacent to the pool deck where these toilets are not provided for all swimmers within two hundred feet of type B, C, D, and E Pools. Minimum toilet facilities must consist of at least 1 Lavatory and 1 water closet for each sex. Minimum toilet facilities must meet all applicable bathhouse requirements as specified in section 16 above.”

    2. Permit 26-I02-1, which is a Type D Public spa. It also was constructed in 1991 and required to meet the requirements stated in the regulation above.

    3. Permit 26-M02-1 which is a Type B public pool. It was constructed in 1996 and required to meet the requirements of the 1993 R.61-51 which states: “Minimum toilet facilities must be provided adjacent to the pool deck where these toilets are not provided for all swimmers within two hundred feet of type B, C, D, and E Pools. Minimum toilet facilities must consist of at least 1 Lavatory and 1 water closet for each sex…”

    During the review of construction plans for No. 1 and 2, DHEC provided comments on the permit application that toilet facilities were required at the site. The pool builder provided a response that facilities would be provided. At the time of permitting and the final inspection of No. 3, DHEC was advised that the use of this pool would be restricted to units located within 200 feet of the pool to meet the regulatory requirements.

    During subsequent inspections between 1996 and 2018, DHEC was under the impression that access to the pools was restricted to only units within 300 feet walking distance of each pool site. During inspections in the summer of 2018, several violations occurred at this facility to include not having restrooms provided within 300 feet. DHEC staff meet with the homeowners association (HOA) in an enforcement conference Sept. 5, 2018 during which representatives from the HOA made it clear they could not restrict access to only units within 300 feet walking distance. At that time, DHEC discussed options to bring the pool into compliance and is working to grant a temporary variance to allow the pools to operate until Oct. 31, 2018. On Sept. 5, DHEC received a variance request to install portable restrooms and a handwashing station within 300 feet of both pool areas.

    Noncompliance with the requirement providing on site at public swimming pools within 300 feet is a very serious concern for DHEC. If restrooms are not provided for easy access, swimmers may choose to instead use the restroom in the pool, which can cause ill health effects for themselves and others. Any type of body waste that enters the pool can and will cause free chlorine to be depleted, which allows bacteria to grow since there may not be the required disinfection levels to remove harmful bacteria.

    “And the interesting thing was we had a vote back in the spring to get restrooms but it was voted down because of how expensive it was going to be and now all of the sudden our pools are closed until we get bathrooms,” Wolfe said.

    The letter goes on to say DHEC won’t allow the pools to remain open without restrooms. The property manager is asking if portable toilets and hand wash stations will allow for the pools to remain open until the end of the season.

    “It’s not sightly at all, that was our biggest shock,” said Wolfe. He said although the portable toilets are outside the pool areas, the pools still remain locked.

    WMBF News reporter Marissa Tansino went to Atalaya Property Management to speak with property Manager Patrick Watts about the locked pools mentioned in the letter. He wouldn’t go on camera, but provided comment off camera, saying DHEC closed the pools and referred any questions to DHEC.

    Melissa Gray said she’s lived in this community for several years. She said she just wants answers.

    “First of all we were supposed to be grandfathered in. I don’t know what happened with that, why DHEC had to change their minds supposedly. I’m not sure if it’s DHEC or Atalaya,” Gray said.

    She said the portable toilets and hand washers could start to smell once they start being used. Gray said she wants to see them taken away and the problem figured out.

    “It’s just not right,” said Gray. She said she also wants to see better communication come from DHEC. “If something like this has happened, they should be sending out emails or contacting the homeowners, which they have not done.”

    Phoenix Waters also lives in Waterway Landing. She said there was no warning and she hates the sight of the portable toilets near the pools. She said she thinks having restrooms by the pool would be even more of an issue. She said restrooms would require more maintenance and extra upkeep. “Who will clean them?” she asked.

    “I hope the problems resolved soon because this is our last bit of summer, we use the pools, it’s a bit ridiculous,” said Wolfe.

    The letter said the property management company is looking to figure out construction plans and a final price for pool restrooms and the board of directors will then decide how to fund them.

    “Everyone is angry. We have a right to be angry,” said Gray.

    Waterway Landing is a private gated community.

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