How does Orange County define a swimming pool?
Chapter 38, Article I, Section 38-1 of the Orange County Municipal Code defines a swimming pool as follows:
Swimming pool shall mean any constructed pool over twenty-four (24) inches in depth or with a surface area exceeding two hundred fifty (250) square feet used for swimming or bathing.
Note that a spa or jacuzzi can also fall under this definition.
What is pool pollution?
Pool water may contain harmful chemicals such as algaecides, bromine, chlorine, muriatic acid, salt, diatomaceous earth (DE) powder and sand. When not properly managed, these contaminants have the potential to pollute our lakes, rivers, springs and wetlands, harm aquatic plants and animals, and reduce water quality of these natural resources.
What is the County MS4 and how does it relate to pool construction and maintenance?
A Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) is a conveyance or system of conveyances that include catch basins, curb inlets, gutters, ditches, constructed channels, storm drains, stormwater ponds or underground pipes, that are owned and operated by Orange County for the purpose of collecting and conveying stormwater that discharges into waters of the state.
The construction and maintenance of swimming pools can result in adverse impacts to water quality due to the potential for illicit discharges into the County MS4 system, wetlands, and waters of the County, that are associated with dewatering or discharging of pool water.
What constitutes an illicit discharge or an illicit connection to the MS4?
Chapter 15, Article IV, Section 15-113 of the Orange County code defines an illicit discharge and an illicit connection.
Illicit discharge means any discharge to the County MS4:
- that does not constitute stormwater or that is not stormwater, and
- that causes or tends to cause water pollution.
Illicit connection means any point source connection from an industrial, residential or commercial activity to the County MS4 for which the county has not given express consent, and which facilitates discharge to the County MS4.
I need to drain a pool. Can I drain pool water into a storm drain or the lake behind the home?
No. Pool water can contain hazardous chemicals. When pool water is improperly discharged into a storm drain, ditch, canal, inlet, any other portion of a stormwater management system, wetlands or waters of the county, it is considered an illicit discharge. An illicit discharge into the County MS4 or waters of the county is a violation under Chapter 15, Article IV, Section 15-115 of the Orange County code.
I am performing maintenance on a saltwater pool. Can I discharge saltwater pool water into the County MS4, a lake or wetlands?
No. A saltwater pool still contains chlorine and sometimes other hazardous chemicals. High concentrations of salt, chlorine and other byproducts of the saltwater process can kill landscaping, aquatic plants and injure wildlife. Discharge from a saltwater pool directly into the County MS4, wetlands or waters of the county would constitute an illicit discharge.
What permits may be required when constructing a new pool, renovating a pool or maintaining a pool (e.g. resurfacing) that will require dewatering of the pool water?
You may need the following permits:
- County Building permit: Construction of a new pool or modification of an existing pool will require a building permit from the Division of Building Safety. Please contact the Division of Building Safety at 407-836-5550 for further information concerning building permits.
- County Right of Way (ROW) Utilization Permit:
- Any discharges directed to the County MS4 requires an Orange County ROW Utilization permit for dewatering and the permit must be obtained prior to the start of any discharges. This includes discharges from new pool excavations or other maintenance activities.
- If the contractor will need access to the property through a County easement or County-owned property, a ROW Utilization permit will be required.
Please contact the Development Engineering Department at 407-836-7974 for more information concerning ROW utilization permits.
- State permits: Discharging groundwater or existing pool water from dewatering operations may require approval from the State. Check with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and/or the applicable Water Management District for more information concerning their requirements.
St Johns River Water Management District;
South Florida Water Management District; www.sfwmd.gov; 1-800-432-2045
Florida Department of Environmental Protection; https://floridadep.gov; 407-897-4100
How do I prevent an illicit discharge to the County’s MS4 when constructing a pool for a homeowner or a commercial business?
Pool construction companies are responsible for applying best management practices (BMPs) when constructing a new pool or performing maintenance on an existing pool. BMPs must be in place prior to the initiation of any earth moving or dewatering activities and must remain in place throughout construction and until the work area has been permanently stabilized.
BMPs generally include:
- A schedule of activities to ensure that all construction materials and chemicals will be contained onsite throughout construction.
- Prohibitions of practices that may result in an illicit discharge to the County MS4, wetlands and waters of the County.
- Maintenance procedures and other management practices designed to prevent or reduce pollutants from entering the County MS4, wetlands and waters of the County.
- Appropriate measures to contain discharges of pool water on site when dewatering, or in accordance with a Right-of-Way Utilization permit if dewatering will occur into the County MS4.
Note that BMPs include, but are not limited to, treatment methods and practices designed to control the discharge of pollutants. BMPs are performance based and if the BMPs fail or site conditions change, new or additional BMPs may be required to attain compliance. Project sites are subject to periodic and random inspections for compliance with the erosion and sediment control requirements. Violators may be subject to fines of up to $10,000 per day.
Some BMPs that are important for pool construction include:
- The installation of appropriate erosion and sediment control devices, including silt fence, turbidity curtains and inlet protections. BMPs should be site specific and designed to protect the County MS4, waters of the County, wetlands, and other conservation areas from illicit discharges.
- Prior to discharging water from swimming pools, the water must be free of hazardous chemicals such as chlorine, salt and muriatic acid. Test for hazardous chemicals and check the chlorine levels prior to discharging. Verify that the chlorine level is 0.01 mg/L or less with a pH between 6.5 and 8.0. Continue proper treatment of the water with a chlorine-neutralizing agent until it falls within these levels prior to discharge. As an alternative, the water may be pumped out by a sanitary disposal service and disposed of at an appropriate facility.
- Pool chemicals and construction materials must be properly stored in a clean, dry and covered area to prevent contact with stormwater. Hazardous material must be disposed of as hazardous waste and at an appropriate treatment facility.
- When backwashing the filter system, allow discharged water to infiltrate through a grassy area or naturally vegetated swale.
- Never create a direct connection between the pool water and a storm drainage system, the streets, gutters, inlets, ditches, stormwater ponds, wetlands, or waters of the County. These types of connections are considered illicit connections and are prohibited under County ordinances.
- Never drain pool water to a septic tank or drain field as this may result in system failure.
What if I am hired to repair or resurface a pool, how should I dispose of the existing pool water?
Dispose of existing pool water as follows:
Neglected or Unmaintained Pools
For a freshwater or saltwater pool, a sanitary disposal service must pump out any water contaminated with algae, debris, metals or other materials and dispose of it at an appropriate disposal site. Never discharge this type of water into the street, ditches, stormwater ponds, wetlands, swales, waters of the county or to any components of the County MS4 system.
- Test the water to ensure it is free from hazardous chemicals, such as muriatic acid.
- Test the chlorine in the water. Verify it is 0.01 mg/L or less with a pH between 6.5 and 8.0 prior to discharge. If the chlorine level is not within this range, treat the water with an appropriate chlorine-neutralizing agent or allow sufficient time for the chlorine to dissipate naturally (generally 10 days).
- Dechlorinated swimming pool water may be discharged across a vegetated lawn provided that the discharge does not cause turbidity associated with backwashing and cleaning, or otherwise cause a violation of water quality standards, described under Section 62-624.200(2)(q) of the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.).
- A pump truck may be needed to draw down large volumes of water from a saltwater pool. The water can then be diluted with fresh water and discharged across a vegetated lawn. However, high concentrations of salts and other chemicals present in a saltwater pool can kill vegetation and harm wildlife, so the water must be sufficiently diluted prior to discharge. Water that is not sufficiently diluted may result in an illicit discharge to the County MS4 or waters of the County.
What do I do in the event of an accidental chemical spill or other illicit discharge?
Any chemical spills should be cleaned immediately per the manufacturer recommendations. If a chemical spill or any other illicit discharge (e.g., discharge of contaminated pool water, chlorinated pool water) went into the street, a ditch, a stormwater pond, wetlands, or other waters of the County, you must report the spill to the Orange County Environmental Protection Division within 24 hours of its discovery. You should include the nature and scope of the discharge, and you must immediately cease discharging and implement suitable BMPs upon discovery of the illicit discharge to contain the area. Failure to report promptly upon discovery is a violation of the county ordinance. See Chapter 15, Article IV, Section 15-116 of the Orange County code for more information.
Report any chemical spills or illicit discharges into the County MS4, wetlands or waters of the County within 24 hours by calling the EPD Help Desk at 407-836-3111.