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St. Paul improves pool safety in wake of boy's drowning in abandoned pool

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Abandoned swimming pools in the city of St. Paul will now be inspected, thanks to a new ordinance passed in wake of a boy's drowning in an out-of-service pool this summer.

Sher Kpor, 7, died in June, just under a month after he got past a locked fence and fell into a trash-filled outdoor pool at the Princeton Place apartments in St. Paul.

The pool has since been demolished, but the incident raised questions about oversight when it comes to who is inspecting abandoned pools.

The Minnesota Department of Health took over the licensing and inspecting of public pools, including those at apartment complexes, from the city of St. Paul in 2013.

However, state inspectors have said it's not their responsibility to inspect pools that don't have a license to operate – such as the Princeton Place pool, and dozens of other abandoned swimming spots in the area.

This had safety advocates and other officials calling for regulations and inspections of abandoned pools to be reviewed.

And on Wednesday, the St. Paul City Council voted to amend city code, the Pioneer Press reports.

The city will now require fencing around all outdoor swimming pools that are at least 24 inches deep with a surface area of 150 square feet, the proposal says. Previously, the code required fencing around pools that contained more than 5,000 gallons of water, the Pioneer Press reports.

It also establishes maintenance criteria for "out of service outdoor swimming pools," requiring pools not in use for more than a year to be free of stagnant water or debris and have an appropriate fence.

The code also establishes criteria for a "nuisance pool" – a pool that is out of service for two or more years that lacks a fence or has stagnant water.

If the property owner fails to comply with a correction order to fix the nuisance pool, the city can hire a contractor to bring the pool into compliance at the owner's expense. The enforcement process is further explained in this proposal document.

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