Twenty-two Los Angeles lifeguards have filed a grievance with L.A. city officials after developing bacterial respiratory problems and skin rashes following a swim exam.
Jasper Kim, the named lifeguard in the grievance, said he told his supervisors in the Aquatics Division of the Department of Recreation and Parks that the water in Hansen Dam Recreation Lake, a man-made freshwater lake, was unsafe for swimming due to a lack of testing for parasites. Three weeks later, one day before a swimming exam was scheduled, Kim again warned his supervisors.
The grievance states that the lifeguards were instructed to proceed with their swim exam regardless.
Following the exam, more than 20 city employees developed skin irritation and respiratory issues from the water. Known as “swimmer’s itch,” the rash is caused by an allergic reaction to microscopic parasites that infect some birds and mammals and are released into fresh and salt water by way of snails.
Affected employees had to seek medical attention.
“Despite this troubling medical condition, I was told I could not use my sick days, and simply had to work in another part of the city as I recovered from the infection, or simply take a vacation,” Kim said in a statement.
According to the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, the water at the lake had been tested before the swim exam and the findings showed that the lake was safe for public use. The department noted that 64 people took the test in total, including the 22 who developed a reaction from the water.
The city employees want the parks department to test all open water and swimming pools, and is asking that responsible supervisors be disciplined and that employees’ lost wages or benefits be restored.
“Our department seeks the highest quality conditions to ensure the public’s safety and will continue to work with the affected employees to ensure they receive any care or work assistance,” the parks department said in a statement. Additional testing has also been requested from the city’s Sanitation Environmental Monitoring Division, the department’s statement said.
The Hansen Dam Recreation Lake is open for fishing but not for public swimming until next month.