Aquatic Fecal Contamination Protocol


Summer, hot weather, and kids… combine them and the use of your aquatic facilities skyrockets. With elevated bather loads comes a heightened concern for safety. More swimmers increase the potential for disaster and lifeguards must be alert to prevent a drowning or near drowning. Additional young bathers raise the potential of another aquatic nightmare: fecal contamination. Its disease potential and required closure regulations can seriously disrupt your aquatics program. Be prepared. Educate patrons about the potential, the seriousness, and the consequences. Have a plan and be ready to implement it quickly.

Before an Episode:

  • Remind parents and small children of the importance of bathroom visits before swimming;
  • Emphasize the consequences of an episode: required pool closure for about 24 hours;
  • Require aquatic-safe (not normal disposable) diapers for anyone not completely toilet trained.

After an Episode:

  • Immediately clear and close pool, being careful to keep bathers away from the contamination.
  • Isolate spa and whirlpool water systems if there is any chance of cross contamination (i.e. use same filtration system).
  • Have and enforce proper blood borne pathogen procedures regarding the clean-up:
    • wear gloves;
    • use a leaf skimmer or similar device for removal of the contaminant;
    • do not allow fecal material to contact the skin.
  • Remove the fecal material from the pool, disposing of it in the sewer system, not the filter system.
  • Shock the pool, meeting or exceeding the requirements of your local health department. The CDC recommends:
  • For formed stool, raise the chlorine concentration to 2 ppm and pH 7.5 or less and maintain this for 30 minutes before reopening the pool
  • For diarrhea, raise the chlorine concentration to 20 ppm and maintain pH 7.5 or less. These levels should be maintained for at least 12.75 hours
  • Filter the pool water at least twice to ensure that all the water passes through the filter. This is normally done in conjunction with the above shock treatment. Code requires that pumps and piping have the ability to refresh 100% of the pool water within 8 hours. Your time will vary with the size of your pool and the capacity of your pump and the size of your piping (see manufacturer's documentation).
  • Clean and disinfect all equipment used (with sodium hypochlorite or other suitable chemical).
  • Backwash the filtration system (according to the specific guidelines of the equipment).

Do not compromise the safety of your kids. Resist any pressure to disregard pool closure guidelines. Normally they are statutory, not just prudent suggestions. Ignore them and there is no viable defense. Cryptosporidium infection is no joke. It affects innocents who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is not worth the gamble, the odds are too great and the stakes are too high. Choose safety!


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