LA Lake Closed After Lifeguards Develop Bacterial Reaction

Liz Carey

Los Angeles, CA ( – The Los Angeles Aquatics Division of the Department of Recreation and Parks has suspended all water activities at a popular recreation facility after lifeguards fell sick after swimming in a lake there.

According to a grievance filed with the city earlier this month, Jasper Kim was one of more than 22 lifeguards asked to take a swimming exam in Hansen Dam Recreation Lake, a man-made fresh water lake in L.A. Kim told supervisors prior to the test that the water in the lake had not been tested for parasites and was unsafe to swim in.

Supervisors told the lifeguards to take the test anyway. Of the 64 lifeguards tested that day, a third came down with skin rashes and respiratory issues from the water. Known as “swimmer’s itch,” the illness is a reaction to parasites in the water released by snails.

Kim was told he could not use paid time off to heal from his illness.

“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.

The lake is now closed to swimmers.

“The larvae causing Swimmer’s Itch may be present in Hansen Dam. In an abundance of caution, the Citywide Aquatic Division suspended all recreational water activities at the Recreation Lake, with the exception of fishing until further notice. Proper notifications and education of preventative measures will be made to the public who wish to utilize the HD Recreation Lake for recreational water activities such as swimming, boating, paddling, etc. in the near future,” the division said in a statement. “Per the Centers for Disease Control, ‘…if the parasite comes into contact with a swimmer, it burrows into the skin causing an allergic reaction and rash. Swimmer’s itch is found throughout the world and is more frequent during the summer months. Most cases of swimmer itch do not require medical attention.’”

The lifeguards want the city to test all open water and swimming pools, and are asking that the supervisors responsible for making the lifeguards swim in the untested water be disciplined and that the stricken employees’ wages and benefits be restored.

The parks department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“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.

Representatives from the California Division of Industrial Relations, which handles workers’ compensation in the state, also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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