Fenwick High School’s pool was shut down by the Illinois Department of Public Health last week, along with over 500 other swimming facilities in the state, for not being in compliance with a drain safety law.

Fenwick was on a list of pool facilities not yet in compliance with a 2008 federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, a law created to prevent deaths due to faulty drains. The deadline to meet standards was Oct. 1, and Fenwick’s facility was officially shut down on Oct. 3, a day before the girls swim team was to host Loyola.

Fenwick Communications Director Jen Butler said there are no specific safety issues with the pool and that the facility passed inspection in March of 2010.

“We are trying to work out the details of why the pool has been closed and what we need to do to have it reopened as soon as possible,” said Butler. “At this time there is no definitive information and timeline.”

Melaney Arnold, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health, said six letters dating back to August of 2008 were sent out to over 500 school, public and private pool facilities informing them they must comply with the state and federal law. The last letter in June reminded the facilities that “Non-compliance of these regulations on Oct. 1, 2011 will result in an order to close the swimming facility.”

“Our goal has not been to close swimming facilities, but we needed a deadline for compliance,” said Arnold, who added that the Oct. 1 closure notice does give a facility the option of requesting a hearing with the department within 15 days.

As for the Fenwick girls swim team, a squad that has a legitimate shot at securing the school’s first girls swimming state title this season, head coach Renee Miller said she’s been scrambling to find practice and meet facilities, including a JV conference meet and possibly the IHSA Sectional Meet scheduled for early November.

“The main problem for us is that our students live in different towns throughout Chicagoland, so it’s ideal to have somewhere close to Fenwick to go,” she said. “Everyone we’ve talked to has been very accommodating.”

Miller said OPRF, St. Patrick and Triton College are lending pool time as well as Riverside-Brookfield, where Fenwick divers will practice and compete.  

“With 57 kids on the team, finding a facility large enough is also a concern,” said Miller.