Category Archives: Regulation

Kentucky Needs To Update Its Pool Code

The Kentucky Department for Public Health published proposed changes to the to the swimming pool and bathing facilities regulation in October of 2011.  Hydrologic posted the announcement and CH’s response

The Business Lexington posted the following article authored by Tracynda Davis.


Kentucky needs to update its pool code

Lexington, KY – One of the greatest pleasures people enjoy is a cool dip in the pool. Swimming pools and aquatic venues let people escape the summer’s heat, giving families a chance to enjoy the outdoors. Children choose swimming over any other recreational activity. And swimming is one of the healthiest forms of aerobic exercise.

But are pools safe? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites that close to 14,000 people a year come down with a waterborne disease contracted at an aquatic venue. Of these cases, 96.5 percent were associated with disinfected water venues (pools, spray fountains, water parks) instead of non-filtered river or lake water.

The Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area suffered from one of the largest Cryptosporidium outbreaks of 2011 — over 250 confirmed cases. Health officials also confirmed roughly 130 cases of Shigella during this time. The outbreak led to more than a dozen pools being treated by superchlorination to stop the spread of illness.

The CDC even has recorded deaths from people being exposed to diseases at aquatic venues. E-coli 0157:H7 killed a young child at a water park in Atlanta. Thousands become ill from diseases contracted at swimming pools, spas, splash pads and water parks. The five primary waterborne diseases — giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, Legionnaires’ disease, swimmers’ ear, and mycobacterial infection—all are found at aquatic venues. Outbreaks from these diseases lead to over 40,000 hospitalizations annually, costing $970 million per year. Almost half that amount, $430 million, was paid by taxpayers through government-funded Medicaid and Medicare patients.

Some data suggests the chemicals used to rid indoor and outdoor pools and aquatic facilities of bacteria and other disease-causing germs, mainly chlorine and bromine, may react with contaminants in water to produce by-products that may in turn increase the risk for cancer and asthma. The exact negative health consequences that long-term exposure to disinfection byproducts cause is not established. However, minimizing risk to potentially harmful chemicals is important. As a result, indoor air quality and ventilation practices and standards at indoor aquatic facilities continue to evolve. Improper operation and maintenance at pools can create chemical vapors that patrons breathe. Poor design of indoor aquatic facilities locks air inside and does not allow for proper fresh air exchange to remove these noxious vapors. Eyes, ears, lungs and skin can become infected from improperly treated pool water.

Drowning, chemical exposure, suction entrapments and waterborne illness all are major public health risks associated with aquatic venues. Drowning is the leading cause of injury death for young children between the ages of one and four, and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for all children age one to 14. Chemicals in pools led to 4,574 emergency room visits by pool patrons in 2008. Waterborne diseases from pools and spas harmed 13,966 swimming patrons in 2008.

All of these health threats, however, are preventable.

Properly maintained aquatic venues operated by professional, well-trained staff cause fewer cases of illness, injuries or outbreaks of waterborne diseases, according to CDC studies. Studies of outbreaks at aquatic venues show that disinfectant levels and other water-quality parameters often are not maintained. Pools that follow standards regarding pathogens in feces or vomit released into pools and have standards regarding young children in diapers have less chance of causing waterborne outbreaks.

Kentucky’s pool code

Kentucky’s pool code, last revised in 1996, does not address many of these aquatic health threats. The code does not require operators trained in public health safety and disease prevention. Even splash pads and spray fountains are not covered. By being out-of-date, the pool code allows aquatic venues to operate without health protections, exposing their patrons to waterborne threats.

Many splash pads in this state have not been designed to industry standards and are not required to be operated by people properly trained. Interactive water features in Kentucky have been built without disinfectants or adequate filtration capacity. Contaminated water can look just like any other water when it’s sprayed up through the air.

By relying on an outdated code, Kentucky jeopardizes its citizens by making water recreation less safe. The operation and maintenance of pools and spas are following codes written 16 years ago. Health threats unknown in 1996 are not addressed in the current pool code.

Aquatic venues are not regulated by the federal government. State and local governments are responsible for adopting pool codes. No single law regulates these venues (and therefore, no uniform national standard exists).

Public swimming pools and spas are forced to meet an inconsistent variety of health and safety standards, depending on location and activity. A municipal pool located in Louisville will be subject to city and county operation and maintenance requirements, whereas a similar pool in Lexington is not, instead relying on Kentucky state code. A public venue privately owned may be exempt from local regulations, but is subject to industry standards mandated by their parent corporation. The response to recreational waterborne disease varies significantly among the state and local agencies.

The Model Aquatic Health Code

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) serves as a tool for local and state public health agencies needing to adopt or revise laws regarding public aquatic venues and pool safety. The MAHC is divided into a series of 14 different modules, each designed independently, which together create a comprehensive tool to review and update state or local public health swimming pool regulations.

The MAHC is a result of a collaborative effort between the CDC and experts on recreational water health and safety, including members from the federal government, state and local health departments, manufacturers, academia and nonprofit aquatic associations. Each of these organizations participated to develop the MAHC, recognizing the need for a national public health standard for aquatic venues. The intent of this health-based scientific code is to reduce illnesses, drowning, injuries and waterborne disease outbreaks at recreational water venues.

Kentucky has an opportunity to update their codes with the latest scientific expertise on aquatic venue health and safety. By expanding the code to cover splash pads, by revising the code to combat waterborne illness and by updating the code to reflect modern operating procedures, Kentucky will protect the swimming public from these harms, ensuring they enjoy the benefits of swimming for years to come.

Tracynda Davis is the director of environmental health programs at the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

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International Swimming Pool and Spa Code Released

The International Code Council (ICC) has teamed up with the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) to develop the 2012 ISPSC.  The swimming pool code coordinated with the current requirements in the International Codes® and APSP standards.  Developed with the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP), the ISPSC establishes minimum regulations for public and residential pools, spas, and hot tubs.  The code provides Virginia Graeme Baker Act compliance and covers all types of aquatic vessels.  Visit to learn more.

Illinois Swimming Facility Legislation in Final Stages of Passage

Significant modifications to the Illinois Swimming Pool Health Code are being proposed in the Swimming Facility Act SB 3727 (Harmon, D. / Currie, B.) passed out of committee this week and is now on the House floor.  The bill requires prequalification by the Illinois Department of Public Health for architects, engineers and contractors to complete work in the State.  The Act include criminal and civil penalties, while exempting local government.  It is this writer’s experience, that no other health code has such requirements.  It will be interesting to see how the Illinois aquatic user benefits or suffers from the proposed legislation.  Will this Act impact the number of pools developed or renovated???

MAHC Disinfection & Water Quality – CH Response

The CDC posted the Disinfection & Water Quality Model Aquatic Health Code Module for public comment on February 27, 2012. Hydrologicblog posted this announcement with the supporting documents.

Disinfection & Water Quality Model Aquatic Health Code Module

The Counsilman – Hunsaker team posted a group response in support of the public comment requirements. This response can be viewed at the below link.

Counsilman – Hunsaker Response

Pools and Hot Tubs – Does Science Support Pool Water Exposure Causes Cancer or Asthma?

If something was published in scientific literature 50 years ago, you  simply go online (or have a librarian) go online to find the paper.  The upside is that scientific, scholarly  publications never go away!  This is an  awesome thing since today’s scientists can determine the edge of scientific  knowledge and push forward. This reduces wasteful duplication.  The down side is that scientific, scholarly  publications never go away!

How prosperous do you think the pool and spa industry will be in  10 years if every year a handful of publications come out that “suggest”  exposure to pool water (or the air above an indoor pool) may cause cancer or  asthma?  I emphasize the word “MAY!”  Not that it does, it just “may.” That has  been going on for several years; it is not likely to stop. Many of the studies  did not have any information on how the pool was operated (disinfectant level,  type, bather load, filter type, fresh air make up, …). Pretty scary stuff to  have people making life decisions based on a research protocol that can’t be  duplicated.

This year, NSPF jointly funded researchers to develop a questionnaire to  make sure future researchers ask the right questions and give information about  the pool used in the research. With that information, we can start formulating  solutions – rather than being falsely labeled as “bad.”  This questionnaire will be presented at the 2012 World Aquatic Health™  Conference (WAHC). Five leading scientists from around the world (Reynolds – U of  AZ, Blatchley – Purdue, Kogevinas & Villanueva -Barcelona, & Plewa -U  of IL) will help us all understand reality from “news hype” on the relationship  between disinfection by-products and health.

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