Oversight of Health and Safety Regulations at Public Pools, Beaches, and Spray Grounds

Issued Date
June 21, 2017
Environmental Conservation, Department of
Health, Department of
Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Office of 


To assess the extent that State agencies responsible for operating and regulating public pools, beaches, and aquatic spray grounds ensure that these facilities are properly maintained, equipped, staffed, and safe for public use. Our audit excluded public pools, beaches, and spray grounds located in New York City. The audit covers the period April 1, 2015 through December 14, 2016.


The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (Parks), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the Department of Health (DOH) are each responsible for regulating – and in some cases operating – public pools, beaches, and spray grounds available for use by residents and visitors of New York State. These agencies provide oversight to more than 7,000 pools, beaches, and spray grounds throughout the State, including those on the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes and in remote locations such as the Adirondack and Catskill parks.

All public pools, beaches, and spray grounds, except those located at DEC campgrounds and State parks, are regulated by DOH. The New York State Sanitary Code (Sanitary Code) stipulates health and safety requirements for all facilities under DOH’s jurisdiction. While DEC and Parks facilities are not required to comply with the Sanitary Code, both of these agencies have their own safety manuals, which include many of the same requirements as the Sanitary Code, such as safety equipment and lifeguard requirements.

Key Findings

  • All three agencies have appropriate controls in place and are providing adequate oversight to ensure that public pools, beaches, and spray grounds under their jurisdiction are safe for public use.
  • Each agency has developed procedures to address health and safety issues at each of the facilities it operates or oversees. These procedures vary slightly based on the specific needs of each agency’s facilities; however, we found the reasons for the variances are appropriate and do not diminish the agencies’ ability to provide appropriate oversight and safety measures.
  • We visited 373 facilities (262 DOH, 88 Parks, and 23 DEC) throughout the State. Of the 373 facilities, 312 were open and 61 were closed. We found minor exceptions at some facilities, but generally found they were in compliance with agency standards, clean, and meeting safety requirements at the time of our visits.

Agency Response

A draft copy of this report was provided to officials from each agency for their review and comment. Their comments were considered in preparing this final report and are attached in their entirety to it. Officials from DOH and DEC said they are pleased with the audit findings. DEC officials also indicated they developed a water quality testing program which will be implemented in the summer of 2017. Parks officials did not respond.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest

Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation: Safety of Infrastructure (2012-S-29)

Andrea Inman

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Andrea Inman
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236