FOX 8 Defenders: Proposal to change one word in pool ordinance

We’re learning more about the effort to change one word in a New Orleans ordinance that targets nuisance swimming pools, and we’ve uncovered disturbing findings about a longtime dangerous pool that should have been abated months ago.

FOX 8 Defenders: Proposal to change one word in pool ordinance

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -

After a series of FOX 8 Defenders reports exposing nuisance swimming pools across New Orleans, the entire City Council, a year ago, got behind a law that targets the most dangerous pools across the City.

“The bottom line here is we want people who live around those houses to be safe...to have kids be safe and to have safety for health. It’s not just the fact that you can crawl into it...it’s the fact that they’re a breeding ground for bad things too,” City Council member Joe Giarrusso said.

If a pool doesn’t meet ‘fencing and filtration requirements’, the law says it ‘shall be deemed to be an emergency,’ and in dealing with pools that aren’t properly secured and that are stagnant, the City can immediately fill them.

But Giarusso wants to change one word in the law. “We said unfenced and unfiltered,” he said. He wants to remove the word “and”...and replace it with “or.” “You want to be able to have it in one situation and not have to have both for the City to be able to enforce it,” Giarrusso explained.

He’s proposing the law be amended to say any pool that fails to comply with the ‘fencing or filtration requirements’...'shall be deemed to be an emergency to the health, safety and welfare of the public,' giving the City authorization to remediate improperly secured pools or pools with stagnant water. The Council could discuss and vote on the proposal Thursday.

“I do think that they’re getting more attention than they’ve gotten before. I think as a combination of the reporting as well as the fact that we keep shining a spotlight on it too,” Giarrusso said.

Meantime, four of the five pools across New Orleans the FOX 8 Defenders exposed were abated last year. One pool was drained and covered in Lakeview. A second pool was drained and cleaned in Gentilly. A third pool in New Orleans East was drained and filled with sand along with a fourth pool in Venetian Isles.

The fifth pool we've investigated at 4216 Encampment Street near McDonogh 35 High School and Bayou St. John went to Code Enforcement hearings in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 and in 2018.

“I saw that the pool is green and not clean...doesn’t have a working filtration system,” said Vanessa Logan a City of New Orleans facilitator at a September 2018 Code Enforcement hearing on the property.

The Administrative Hearing Officer Tom Robbins told the owner, Lydia Henry, "there is an order that the City is now taking more positive steps regarding all the bad pools."

The hearing officer gave the owner 30 days to fill the pool. "That means if you do not fill the pool within 30 days, the City will do so," Logan explained.

A month later, Henry's attorney, Ernest Jones, filed a motion to extend the time for compliance. Jones explained the property is in litigation for breech of contract with a contractor who was engaged to renovate the property in 2008.

The attorney goes on in the document, explaining that the owner obtained a couple of estimates to do the pool work, which included filling it with river sand, but she didn't have the funds to contract for the pool work or to pay the fines and costs imposed on her. Jones wrote that the owner intended to seek the funds at her trial that was scheduled last December.

FOX 8 talked to the attorney this week, and he says the trial still hasn’t happened. He also stressed the pool had been drained.

However, within the last week, FOX 8 captured drone video of the pool, which shows green, stagnant water. A closer image, revealed the unfiltered water, trash and debris along with a short back gate that was wide open.

Remember, the City ordered the owner fill the pool or the City would do it. That was a year ago, around the same time the Council made the law more clear when it comes to enforcing dangerous pools, yet a spokesperson for the Mayor confirmed recently, "there were no individual pools abated under an emergency order."

We've asked the City for comment on why the pool order hasn't been enforced, but so far haven't heard back. FOX 8 also reached out to the owner for comment twice but she hasn't returned the call.

The Encampment Street property is scheduled for another Code Enforcement hearing later this month, which will be the 6th hearing since 2012.

If you’ve got a consumer issue you want us to address, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women, the NCJW or fill out our online complaint form.

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