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Page updated Nov 23, 2015 2:12 PM

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Aquatic Health & Safety Program

Did you know that the City of Alexandria has approximately 150 permitted pools, spas, water parks and play fountains? Learn more about how the Health Department inspects and permits them to keep our community healthier. Find out how to get a permit, become a licensed pool management company or obtain a pool operator card.

About the Program

The Health Department, Environmental Health Division inspects and permits approximately 150 public aquatic facilities in the city. This includes any public recreational water facility, including those with membership requirements or fees. The most common types of aquatic facilities in the city are pools, spas, water parks, and interactive fountains. These can be found at:

  • Apartment Communities
  • Amusement Parks
  • City Facilities
  • Condominium Associations
  • Fitness Centers or Gyms
  • Hotels & Motels
  • Parks & Recreation Centers
  • Town Squares

Most of the permitted facilities only operate during the pool season (Memorial Day to Labor Day). Some are open year-round.

The Health Department will conduct a plan review before issuing a permit. A plan review checks that a facility can meet the local health codes. After issuing a permit, the Health Department will regularly inspect the facility. 

Permits, Plans & Renovations

Codes & Regulations

In Alexandria, all aquatic facilities are reviewed, permitted and inspected using the following health codes and regulations:

Get or Permit

Single family homes typically do not need a permit, unless they also operate a daycare or Bed & Breakfast on their property. In all cases, pools, spas and hot-tubs should be properly fenced or locked to prevent accidental drowning.

Plan Reviews 

A plan review is a process that local governments use to ensure that a business can meet the local building, fire, health and safety codes. In Alexandria, a number of City Departments required a plan review, including the Department of Code Administration, Health, Zoning, etc. Each department concentrates on their area of expertise. The Health Department will review all aquatic facility's plans, equipment and layout to check that it can meet the local health codes

Plan reviews must be completed prior to construction and equipment replacement. An EHS, Environmental Health Specialist, must inspect the plumbing and equipment prior to pouring concrete or opening the facility to the public. To learn more, review our guide, visit or call 703.746.4910 option 2 and ask to speak to a Plan Review EHS. To learn more about other city department reviews, visit for more information.


In most cases, a plan review is required before a renovation. If the facility is applying a new white coat only, a review is not necessary. 

About Inspections

The Health Department inspects an aquatic facility to check that it:

  • is properly maintained
  • free from safety hazards
  • has properly disinfected water
  • has enough pool operators and lifeguards present

In Alexandria, all inspections are done in person by an EHS, or Environmental Health Specialist. Almost all inspections are surprise inspections. During the pool season (Memorial Day to Labor Day), the Health Department inspects aquatic facilities about once every two weeks. During the winter season, it inspects year-round facilities about once a month. If an EHS observes a health or safety hazard during an inspection, he or she may inspect the facility more frequently until the issue is resolved.

The different types of inspections are:

  • Routine (.pdf)
  • Complaint
  • Follow-up
  • Training (scheduled in advance) 
  • Pre-opening (.pdf) (scheduled in scheduled)

The Health Department only inspects facilities that need or have a health permit. All violations listed on an inspection are from the local health codes. If the violation continues to be observed, the EHSs may issue a Notice of Violation, or ticket. This will be written in the inspection report. 

Health inspection reports are public documents. You can view a copy of the inspection by asking the aquatic facility to show you its copy. You can also contact the City Attorney's office to make a Freedom of Information Act Request. Visit for more information. If you are a pool owner or operator and need another copy of a report, call 703.746.4910.

Make a Complaint

If you are concerned about the safety or cleanliness of a pool in the city, call 703.746.4910. Be prepared to give the following:

  • Name and address of the facility
  • Date and time of visit
  • What you saw

An EHS, or Environmental Health Specialist, will do a complaint inspection and report back to you.

Ticket: What to Do

Did you or your business receive a Notice of Violation from the Health Department? You have ten days to decide what to do next. The back of the ticket lists your choices.

Pay the Ticket

  • Complete the back of your ticket copy and mark "Admit Violation" or "No Contest."
  • Take it to City Hall at 301 King Street. For business hours, visit or call 703.746.3902.

Disagree with the Ticket

  • We recommend you first call 703.746.4910 and speak to your Environmental Health Specialist.
  • If you still disagree, complete the back of your ticket copy and mark "Contest Violation."
  • Take it to the Health Department at 4480 King Street, 3rd Floor, within ten days. If you mail your ticket, call so we know to expect it.
  • The Environmental Health Manager will read the ticket and invite you to a hearing at the Health Department. This meeting is your chance to show that the violation did not happen.
  • At the end of the hearing, the Manager will decide to uphold or waived the ticket.

Licensed Pool Operators

Operator Requirements

While an aquatic facility is operating, at least one licensed pool operator must be on the premises. A licensed pool operator must:

  • Be sixteen (16) years of age or older
  • Have a licensed pool operator card
  • Passed an approved operator exam within the last three years
  • Be knowledgeable about and be able to correct aquatic health and safety issues

Get a Card

You can get a pool operator card by passing an approved exam. Formal training is not required to get a card, but is recommended. 

Approved Exams

The Alexandria and Fairfax County Health Departments have contracted with the Swimming Pool and Spa Association™ (SPSA) at to proctor the pool operator exam. The exam is 50 questions and costs $75 per attempt. The cost of the licensed pool operators card is included in the exam fee.

Testing Locations & Hours

Prospective pool operators can take an approved exam at several SPSA testing sites. The times, locations, and availability can vary by season, so pool operators should call 703.829.3391 or visit the SPSA’s website at for more information. In most cases, individuals do not need to make a reservation to take an exam. However, groups of three or more individuals should make reservations either by going on online at or by calling in advanced.

Pool Management Companies

Pool management companies are businesses that operate an aquatic facility for its owner. They are consider experts in their field and usually have a staff of licensed pool operators or lifeguards. Many apartment communities, condominium associations and hotel groups will hire such companies to handle the day-to-day maintenance of their pools. In Alexandria, pool management companies must be licensed by the Health Department if they manage a permitted facility. 

Preparing for Pool Season

The term "pool season" is an industry term that represents the period of time when outdoor aquatic facilities operate. Traditionally, it is from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but it can vary from year to year, depending on the weather.

Each year as Memorial Day approaches, the Health Department will get hundreds of requests from the seasonal facility owners and operators for new permits and inspections. To help everyone make the best use of their time, owners and operators can use the following resources to get their seasonal facilities ready.

Contact Us

Alexandria Health Department
Division of Environmental Health
4480 King Street, 3rd Floor
Alexandria, VA, 22302

Phone: 703.746.4910
Fax: 703.746.4919

Business Hours:

  • Monday - Wednesday & Friday: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
  • Thursday: 12:45 to 4:30 pm 

For alerts and new updates for this program, create an eNews account at and subscribe to our Pool & Spa Safety for Businesses group. You can get updates sent to your email, phone, pager, or all three. 

Forms, Applications, and Guides

Below is a list of our frequently requested forms, applications, and guides for aquatic facilities.

Is this list missing anything? Let us know what else you want to see here.