Swimming Pools and Spas

Public Pools

New Construction or Alterations to Existing Pools

Plans for new construction or alterations to existing public swimming pools or whirlpool/spa pools must be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Health. A public pool shall not be constructed or altered until plans and specifications have been submitted to and approved by the Minnesota Health Department Health. The CPO must inform the Health Department upon completion of the plan to determine compliance with Minn. Rules Chapter 4717.

Apply for a License

  • Print and complete the license application.
  • Submit the application and applicable license fee to the department.
  • If purchasing an existing facility with a swimming pool or whirlpool/spa pool, a compliance inspection must be conducted prior to the closing date of the sale. Swimming pool or whirlpool/spa pool licenses are not transferable to person or place. A new license must be obtained before you begin operation of the swimming pool or whirlpool/spa pool.
  • Public pools are required to have a certified pool operator and the operator’s certification must be posted (see Minnesota Rules, part 4717.0650, subpart 5). A certified trained operator must successfully complete a recertification course at least once every five years. For a list of courses, visit the course listings at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH ).

    Licensing and Inspection

    The Department of Public Health and Environment licenses swimming pools and whirlpool / spa pools at apartment buildings, hotels, food establishments, manufactured home parks, recreational camping areas and/or youth camps. These pools and spas are inspected annually for health and safety violations. The regulations for pools and spas are outlined in the Washington County Pool Ordinance and the Minnesota Pool Code.

    For seasonal pools, health and safety items must be in place prior to opening the pool. A checklist can be found here and includes the minimum requirements. Contact this Department for an inspection prior to opening your pool for the season!

    Public pools and spas are routinely inspected for a variety of factors, including the following areas:

  • Water chemistry (disinfectant, pH, alkalinity, etc.), clarity and temperature
  • Operations – including a certified pool operator, daily records, pool test kit
  • Life, health and safety issues – life poles, ring buoys, signage, depth markings, ladders, lifeguards, spine boards, etc.
  • Access restrictions
  • Equipment repair and operation
  • Pool structure, repair cleanliness, lighting
  • Support facilities, such as locker rooms, saunas, showers and toilets
  • Special pool operations and signage requirements, such as for spas and flumes
  • Building and pool structure and maintenance, lighting, ventilation, cleanliness

General Pool Requirements


Regular and precise testing of swimming pool and spa water is necessary for maintaining a sanitary pool environment. The following chemical factors should be tested daily with an approved test kit to ensure that pool water is kept within predetermined standards.

Chlorine sanitation

  • Process of destroying organisms that are harmful to people including pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, viruses.
  • Free chlorine is the chlorine available to kill bacteria or algae. Combined chlorine is determined from the difference between the total and free chlorine and is the amount of chlorine required to react on various water impurities before a residual is obtained. (Combined chlorine not to exceed 0.5 ppm.)
Free Chlorine Pools Spas Wading Pool
Minimum 1.0 ppm 2.0 ppm 1.0 ppm
Ideal 3.0 ppm 4.0 ppm 4.0 ppm
Maximum 10.0 ppm 10.0 ppm 10.0 ppm
Total - Free = Combined


  • PH is measured on a scale from 0-14 and indicates how acidic or basic a solution is. Corrosive damage to pipes, filters, and pumps might result from operation at a pH below 7.0. High pH values cause reduced effectiveness of bactericides and encourage the growth of algae.
  • To increase pH add soda ash. To decrease pH add muriatic acid.
  • Range 7.2 – 7.8 (Ideal range 7.4-7.6)

Total alkalinity

  • Measurement of the ability of water to resist changes in pH. The higher the total alkalinity, the greater the resistance to pH.
  • To increase alkalinity use sodium bicarbonate. To decrease alkalinity use muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate.
  • 50 ppm minimum (Ideal range 80-120 ppm)

Cyanuric acid

  • Chemical used to prevent the decomposition of chlorine by ultraviolet light. Stabilizes the free chlorine residual against destruction by sunlight. Increased levels can cause higher levels of total dissolved solids. As pools approach 100 ppm CYA operators should close the pool. Water must be drained and fresh water added and the pool should only re-open when CYA levels are in a range that does not inhibit the free available chlorine’s ability to inactivate harmful pathogens. Click here for information on CYA. **Stabilized chlorine should not be used for indoor pools or spas**
  • To increase add cyanuric acid. To decrease cyanuric acid drain and refill a portion of the water.
  • Optimal level: 25 ppm (100 ppm maximum)


Superchlorination is the practice of adding large quantities of chlorinating chemical to kill algae and microorganisms, eliminate slime, destroy odors, or improve the ability to maintain a disinfectant residual. (**Washington County follows the CDC guidelines for Superchlorination when dealing with fecal and vomitus/blood incidents**) Contact time and amount of chlorine concentration vary depending on the situation.

Follow these three requirements when superchlorinating:
  1. For combined chlorine above 0.5 ppm click here.
  2. For vomit or blood episode click here.
  3. For feces episode click here.

Other important health and safety requirements

One (1) unit of lifesaving equipment is required for every 2000 sq. feet of pool surface area.

A unit of lifesaving equipment consists of:
  • A life pole or shepherd’s crook with a blunted end and a minimum fixed length of 12 feet.
  • A ring buoy attached to a rope 1.5 times the width of the pool, but not longer than 60 feet.
All pool incidents that require assistance from emergency personnel must be reported to the Public Health Department by the end of the next business day. Refer to MN Department of Health’s injury report form on side of this web page

Signs must be posted within the pool enclosure. Pool sign requirements can be found here.

Certified Pool Operator (CPO) Responsibilities

  • Test water chemistry results daily. Record these test results in a log sheet (log sheet can be found here)
  • Adjust water chemistry to meet requirements
  • Maintain filters, gauges, flow meters, piping, and other operational equipment

Pool Closure

A public swimming pool must be closed immediately for any of the following items:

  • Gate not self-latching and/or self-closing from any position
  • Main drain not clearly visible and/or secure
  • Free disinfectant residual below the specified level
  • Total disinfectant residual above 10 ppm
  • A dangerous condition exists within the water (ex. broken glass, vomit, feces, etc.)
  • Any lifesaving equipment that is missing, inoperable, not accessible, or in poor repair (see next item)
  • Closure of a public swimming pool is the responsibility of the pool operator.

Report a Concern

To report a concern or complaint about a pool or spa, go to Report a Concern and submit the information. Your report will go directly to the department for follow-up.