When Marcella Robinson went swimming in the newly renovated pool at the Bay Club in El Segundo last Monday, the last thing she expected was a burning sensation in her eyes and throat.
“I got out because I was getting uncomfortable,” explained Robinson, “There was this white, powdery, gritty stuff all over me when I showered.”
Robinson, a Torrance resident, had been a 2-year member of the private club at 2250 Park Place—the club has since terminated her membership—and often swam in the facility’s pool as therapy for her spinal cord injury.
But this was the first time she had been in the water since the pool reopened following what she says was a $1 million renovation that had it closed for most of the summer. The club has actually undergone some $15 million worth of recent renovation, according to the website for the Bay Club Company, which operates several health clubs from Oregon down to San Diego.
Robinson was alarmed by her symptoms, which she said were unremitting.
“I went to the front desk and said something is wrong, the pool needs to be checked. It doesn’t seem suitable to swim in,” she added.
She also placed a call to the Recreational Waters Program which handles complaints related to swimming pools as part of the Los Angeles Department of Public Health.
Beatriz Carbonell, the environmental health and safety inspector who visited the Club on August 21 in response to Robinson's complaint, closed the pool due to water that was "cloudy, turbid, green," as well as unapproved plans per California Code of Regulations 3103B.1., according to the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health's official inspection report.
That safety code dictates any alterations to a pool or its equipment must be cleared first by the health department, according to a 2015 report.
"The pool was closed due to cloudy water and remodeling the pool without approved plans," said Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in an email to Southern California News Group. "There were no outstanding violations that were of critical health concern."
When Robinson returned to the pool on Wednesday, she saw Carbonell there performing an inspection but was unable to get a conclusive answer as to whether or not there was a concern.
“She said well, I’m not sure yet, I’m not done with my testing...but I might be shutting it down, I’m very concerned about the cloudiness,” Robinson said of her interactions with the health department inspector.
Robinson once again braved the water, which was notably cloudy, she said, but got out immediately when the burning sensation returned.
She said Bay Club management assured her it was the result of a new filtration system but also admitted there hadn’t been inspections on the renovated pool prior to its reopening.
“There’s no mistaking what the general manager told me that the pool was not inspected prior to its reopening after construction,” Robinson said.
Tony Allegre, general manager of the Bay Club location in El Segundo, declined requests for comment. Kevin Klipfel, the chief operating officer of the Bay Club Company, did not return multiple phone calls. The company has a network of health clubs with more than 50,000 members.
The Club's new pool remains closed and aqua classes on the Bay Club’s website are listed as ‘cancelled.’
"The pool remains closed until the Environmental Health Inspector is satisfied that the work is done correctly and according to code," according to the Health Department.
It is unknown for how long the pool will remain closed, representatives added.
Robinson said a member of Bay Club management informed her contract of membership with the club has been terminated.
She has had other issues with the club, she added, including delays in getting handicap signs in restroom and shower areas, and said she feels the cancellation of her membership is an act of retaliation.
“I’m in shock right now,” she said. "I like the pool at the Bay Club, I just want to be able to go to and do my workout in a clean, safe environment.”