Under Pressure

4. If possible, do not use the pool vacuum. Vacuums will sometimes disperse the fecal matter into the water, which can increase the chances of RWIs or contaminate this vacuum. In some cases a vacuum is the only means of removing fecal matter but it is not recommended. If you do use a vacuum the discharge hoses should be placed in an area that does not permit the water to return to the pool. After using a pool vacuum all parts should be soaked in a strong chlorine solution and rinsed well. Also, the filter elements should be soaked in chlorine and the entire system should be flushed with water.

5. In cases of diarrhea or extremely loose stools where extraction is virtually impossible the filtration system is the only solution.

Step Two — Disinfecting contaminated areas and filtration systems

1. Pools chlorine levels should be maintained between 2 ppm and 3 ppm, and pH level should be kept between 7.2-7.5, throughout entire pool. (Note: 1.5-ppm chlorine level is the recommendation by the EPA for drinking water).

2. Pool chlorine levels should always be maintained in a consistent level regardless of the presence of fecal matter. By maintaining a strong, consistent level of chlorine and pH the pool operator ensures that the risk of RWIs, bacterium, and viruses is minimal

3. The CDC considers diarrhea the most dangerous form of fecal accidents that can happen in a swimming pool complex. The CDC recommends that you bring your chlorine up to 20 ppm for 8 1/2 hours to ensure proper sterilization of your water.

4. Pool filtration systems should be backwashed and cleaned thoroughly after any fecal accident within your complex.

Pool operators throughout the country handle fecal accidents within the guidelines of their state government. What is important is the fact the chlorine levels must be strong enough to prevent RWIs.

In an undercover operation, news media presented Inside Edition investigates bacterial levels and hotel pools; is the water as clean as it looks?, airdate Friday, September 7, 2001.

Inside Edition examined the water in hotels and motel pools in New Jersey and Orlando. Out of the 11 pools tested along the New Jersey shore more than half of them had no chlorine and several of them tested positive for fecal chloroform. As for Orlando, 17 pools and sports complexes were tested and eight had no chlorine at all. You can find this article at www.insideedition.com/investigative/dirty_pools.htm

How can you ensure that you have adequately sterilized your pool complex after a fecal accident involving diarrhea so it is safe for patrons? It is almost impossible to bring a pool level up to 20 ppm since most pH test kits only go up to 10. If a pool’s chlorine level were brought up to 20 ppm for 8 1/2 hours, it would take hours or days to bring the level back down to 2 ppm. Although there are chemicals on the market to break down chlorine levels they are sometimes not easy to use.

Once again the pressure to reopen a pool complex on a hot weekend day can be tremendous on the staff and a financial burden on the complex. Education for your staff and the public is the best tool to control and defuse any situation.

Step Three — Administrative Responsibilities

1. Pool rules and regulations must be clearly visible to all patrons using the facility and enforced by the staff.

2. Administrators must stand behind their pool operators and lifeguards to ensure that safety and health are top priorities.

3. Departments must be committed to preventing RWI within their aquatics complex by training and educating the staff.

4. Publicly announce that anyone purposely defecating in a pool can lead to legal action and will not be tolerated within your complex.

5. Develop a diaper policy for the pool, locker room, and deck areas that enables the changing and disposal of dirty diapers in a sanitary manner.

6. Stress the importance to staff that bathrooms should always be cleaned and disinfected routinely to prevent any fecal matter in the floors from entering the pool.

7. Consult with aquatic safety experts on establishing the regulations for your pools.

Education and training are the two most important tools that pool complexes can use to help ensure that recreational water illness is not a problem within their pool facilities.

Educating the public by signage can help eliminate fecal accidents involving diapers and young swimmers. Unfortunately, RWI can take hours and days before symptoms start. The correlation between swimming and ingesting water that has fecal matter in it and then becoming ill is sometimes overlooked.

Proper pool maintenance and chemical levels can only help prevent RWI but cannot guarantee that it will not occur. Social deviant behavior of purposely defecating in a pool may not be stopped, but it can be deterred through education within the community. Let the public know why you may close on that hot summer day, and ask for their help to keep their pools safe and open.

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