Francis Pool leaves swimmers covered in blue paint

Blue paint from the bottom of a Northwest pool has bled onto swimmers' skin. Photo: Balaji.B via Creative Commons

Local parents are angry over the alarming condition of a D.C. public pool. They want to know why the city kept the Francis Pool in Northwest open knowing that swimmers were coming out of the water covered in blue paint.

A string of emails between D.C. officials shows that Department of Parks and Recreation officials knew at least a week ago that the blue paint on the bottom of the pool was bleeding into the water and onto peoples’ skin. And even though a councilmember told DPR to address the situation immediately, officials still allowed people to go swimming there anyway.

“The first thought we said is, ‘How do they have this pool open?’” asks Megan Michiels of Georgetown.

When her hands turned blue, Michiels grabbed her young son and jumped out of the pool.

“I mean, at this age they swallow water,” she say. “Who knows what paint in the water does… and as we were going out we notice another mom taking pictures. She was really upset about the paint, that it had gotten on her child.”

Getting no response from DPR officials, Michiels emailed her councilman, Jack Evans.

“Your immediate reaction as a parent is horror,” Evans says. “I mean, as you said, you not only have paint on you, whatever skin disease that could cause, but you’re also drinking that water and God knows what chemicals are involved there.”

In an email last Friday, the director of DPR told Evans there were “problems with the paint used in prepping for the season, and the only way to repair is to drain the pool.”

But Michiels was shocked to see the pool was still open this past weekend.

“Who’s making the decisions?” she asks. “They knowingly were aware of a serious problem.”

Crews were seen Tuesday wearing masks and other protective gear as they sandblasted parts of the pool. They weren’t sure why the pool was never closed because of the paint problem.

DPR officials say it was the Department of General Services’ responsibility, and DGS pointed the finger back at DPR, but said there was no potential danger for visitors.

DGS said Wednesday the two departments together “tried come up with a temporary solution to not close the pool because of the summer weather, but after further reviewing the pool, it was determined [they] needed a permanent resolution.”

Evans says the pool should have been closed immediately.

“… I’m still not convinced that when you come out of a pool with blue paint on you that you’re OK, even though they say you’re OK,” he says.