Setting A Gold Safety Standard

What Are Environmental Health Professionals Finding?

Depending on the type of recreational water facility, environmental health professionals are seeing a variety of water-quality violations. For example, some types of water facilities are more susceptible to water-quality violations than others. Facilities that have kiddie pools and hot tubs typically see more violations because these sources have lower water volumes and, therefore, more room for error by pool operators.

However, in most cases, the violations were chemical-related, such as incorrect chlorine levels or unbalanced pH levels. In addition, a significant number of inspectors cited problems related to malfunctioning or improperly calibrated water sanitation and circulation equipment. Another common violation that inspectors cited in the survey is inaccurate or incomplete records.

Lack Of Familiarity With Health Codes

Environmental health professionals were also asked their opinions on the knowledge of pool operators and their staff on local codes, regulations and inspection requirements. Sixty-two percent replied that they consider only half or less than half of the managers/operators with whom they interact to be well-trained or well-informed regarding inspection requirements. According to the survey, despite having all of the available information available, the pool operators are not fully educated on relevant codes and requirements, and do not realize the consequences if they are not in compliance.

Another major reason the survey cited for lack of knowledge has to do with a high seasonal-employee turnover rate. Inspectors also were asked whether they interact with the same individual operators or managers at the recreational water facilities they inspect. Sixty-two percent of the environmental health inspectors reported that they deal with the same staff at community pools and recreational parks on a regular basis.While that’s more than half, many new staff and even some tenured staff are not as well-versed as they should be on the latest regulatory codes.

Offering Solutions And Recommendations

The environmental health professionals did not just point fingers in the study, but rather offered recommendations and best practices to pool owners and operators to reduce violations and keep patrons safe. First, managers and operators need to take a more active role in maintaining water quality. Additional recommendations are divided into two categories–maintaining safe water quality and maintaining the equipment that helps to keep the water clean.

Recommendations for maintaining safe water quality:

· Have all health/state codes printed out and readily available.

· Require that persons who operate the pool attend a Certified Pool Operator (CPO) or Aquatic Facilities Operator (AFO) training course.

· Set up a routine for checking pool water, and pay special attention to pH and chlorine measurements.

· Keep the pool’s log in a specified location, and stress the importance of maintaining accurate records.

· Buy and devote one test kit for every body of water at the beginning of the year.

Recommendations for maintaining pool equipment:

· Know all relevant state codes regarding chlorinator sizing. When in doubt, oversize.

· Follow the manufacturers’ recommendations for the use of equipment and chemicals without exception. For example, use the recommended chlorine tablets with the right chlorinator. Use of any chemicals other than those specified could present a serious safety risk.

· Stay within NSF/ANSI Standard 50 Guidelines by using only chemicals recommended by the manufacturer in flow-through chlorinators.

Setting A Gold Standard

Having a team-oriented relationship with environmental health professionals is critical. As more and more recreational water facilities open around the country, the fewer environmental health professionals there are to inspect them. Pool operators, managers and owners who take a proactive approach will be doing their part and as a result will be helping inspectors do theirs.

At the 2008 Summer Games, it took individual responsibility and attention to detail by each Team USA member to ensure the overall team’s success. Pool operators who take individual responsibility and pay attention to detail will not only be keeping their pools open and full, but most importantly keeping their patrons safe, healthy and happy.

Dave Purkiss is General Manager of Water Treatment and Distribution Products program at NSF International. He has worked for NSF for 22 years. He holds a B.S in Biochemistry from Michigan State University, and serves on the AWWA Polyelectrolytes Standards Committee, the AWWA Utility Quality Management Programs Committee and the NSF International Recreational Water Products Joint Committee. For more information on the survey, visit

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