More than 22 Los Angeles lifeguards are taking city officials to task after the employees suffered multiple health issues caused by a parasite-infested lake.
The lifeguards in question were ordered to take a swimming exam in the recreation lake at the Hansen Dam Aquatic Center, despite concerns the man-made body of water had not been tested for parasites.
Jasper Kim, named in the grievance, maintains he reported the questionable conditions to higher-ups at the Aquatics Division of the Department of Recreation and Parks. Even when Kim repeated his concerns to supervisors, a day before the swimming exam and three weeks after his initial warning, Kim and his fellow lifeguards were told to take the test, according to the grievance.
Due to the water exposure, over 20 city employees developed a rash, known as “swimmer’s itch,” and respiratory problems.
“Swimmer’s itch” is the result of “an allergic reaction to certain parasites that infect some birds and mammals. These microscopic parasites are released from infected snails into fresh and salt water,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite the lifeguards requiring medical treatment, longtime lifeguard Kim said he wasn’t permitted to use allotted sick days during recovery. Instead, he was told to “work in another part of the city … or simply take a vacation.”
The employees are calling for the parks department to test every swimming pool and body of open water and discipline the supervisors responsible. They’re also seeking the restoration of benefits and lost wages.
The L.A. parks department said in a statement that the water had been tested prior to the exam and was confirmed to be “safe for public use.” They said only 22 (reported in the statement as 20) employees suffered adverse reactions out of the 64 who had taken part in the exam.
The lake remains open for fishing, but not public swimming, until June, as the waters undergo additional testing.