College students who soaked in a hot tub at a Main Street apartment building have faced exposure to potentially disease-carrying germs because managers failed to properly maintain the spa, records show.
The spa at the Hub on Campus Columbia, a privately owned complex that caters to students from the University of South Carolina and other Columbia colleges, has failed at least six state health inspections since 2015.
Recently, state regulators said they discovered a green, scum-like material in the water in the Hub's spa. Equipment needed to disinfect the spa wasn’t working and water quality standards weren’t being met in the rooftop hot tub, according to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control records.
DHEC fined the Hub’s managers $1,360 for those violations and ordered the company to ensure the hot tub’s water is kept clean. The agency at one point ordered the hot tub closed. DHEC says the problems have been addressed, but it still is monitoring the situation.
DHEC takes 250 to 300 enforcement actions against the owners of publicly used swimming pools and spas each year. South Carolina has some 7,000 swimming pools that the agency tracks for compliance with water-quality standards.
At the Hub, records show, one recent concern was a failure to maintain adequate pH and chlorine levels. Chlorine is commonly used in pools and hot tubs to kill bacteria, while pH levels measure acidity or alkalinity in water.
“If the chlorine level and pH levels are not within the water quality standards, there is a possibility of the spread of germs and recreational water illnesses from one patron to another and may be unsafe for patron use,’’ DHEC spokesman Tommy Crosby said in an email Thursday.
Core Campus I LLC , which oversees the Hub and is responsible for operating the hot tub, issued a statement Friday saying the problems were being fixed.
“Hub at Columbia has a certified pool operator on staff and is committed to maintaining high-quality standards for our tenants,'' the company's statement said. "DHEC inspected the spa hot tub at Hub at Columbia on April 3rd. All items listed in their report were already scheduled for replacement or repair. The spa hot tub passed inspection a few days later.”
A May 17 DHEC report shows the hot tub failed an inspection at that time..
The Hub, at 1426 Main St., is a private, high-rise building that houses more than 800 people, many attending the University of South Carolina during the school year. The building has a pool on its roof, a fitness complex and other amenities to attract students.
According to enforcement records released this week by DHEC, the agency raised concerns after inspecting the spa on Jan. 2 and April 3. Inspectors found equipment used to disinfect water was not working, the water had a greenish color and a green “precipitate’’ was on a thermometer inside the hot tub.
An April 3 inspection report shows the spa’s wall had a “green substance at (the) water line’’ and some had broken off and was floating in the water. The spa's water, which should have been blue-colored or clear, appeared to be green, according to DHEC. The agency said it could not determine why the water was green.
In addition to those concerns, inspectors said the spa's drain grates were broken and control equipment was not working.
DHEC has raised concerns about the Hub’s spa since 2015. A report from July of that year found chlorine levels were too high, records show. Concerns about chlorine levels also were noted during failed inspections in 2017.
Research has found hot tubs and swimming pools can be sources of disease outbreaks if their water is not properly treated.