Supplement Feature - February 2009
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Sink or Swim

Aquatic Operations Adjust With the Times

By Emily Tipping


The Ongoing Battle

After several years with major outbreaks of Cryptosporidium, or crypto—in Utah, New York and other locations—anecdotal evidence shows that in 2008, there may have been some improvement. But that's no reason to let down your defenses.

Crypto is just one of many recreational water illnesses that causes acute gastrointestinal symptoms. But the big problem for you is its resistance to chlorine.

"My understanding is that last year we saw fewer very large outbreaks," said Lachocki. "But I would urge everyone not to rest on their laurels. Many facilities still do not have trained and certified aquatic professionals on staff. Crypto still remains resistant to chlorine, and though we get the word out as best we can, there are still many people who are not getting the information."

Prevention is essential, and the disease's chlorine resistance presents the biggest problem for facility operators. Know the ins and outs of maintaining the right chlorine levels, and you're one step closer to successfully preventing outbreaks. You also should consider ancillary technologies that can further help prevent an outbreak, such as UV and ozone systems.

UV is already required in some states, but Jim Tanner, a representative of a company that manufactures UV filtration systems, as well as other methods, warns that it is not a silver bullet.

"There are other technologies that will help address these issues," he said, adding that we should be on the lookout for technologies that are successful in Europe, which are often imported to the United States.

Byrd pointed out that while five states require the UV system, it can be an expensive proposition. On the other hand, as more people add UV, the cost will likely come down.

You should be aware that UV systems do not replace chlorine. You'll still need it in the water. UV simply provides an extra layer of protection.

Dunham said that Greenville County will be using UV filtration on its new spraypad, but that's not the only weapon in the district's arsenal. "We make sure all of our turnover rates are faster than what is required by code," Dunham said. "We test the water with a greater frequency than what's required by code. We make sure all our staff are trained."

And that's another other key component of preventing RWIs: education. And that includes your staff as well as the public using your facility. You also need to be aware of outbreaks that might impact your facility. You can sign up for a "Prevention Advisor" e-newsletter at NSPF.org.

"Anyone who signs up will be notified if there's an outbreak in their region," Lachocki said. "The better we communicate, the better facilities can superchlorinate, add UV systems and ozone systems to help mitigate and reduce larger outbreaks."

If you do have an incident at your pool, you can use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) six-step hyperchlorination procedure to treat your pool. This involves raising your pool's free chlorine residual for an extended period of time in order to inactivate 99.9 percent of Crypto in the pool's water.

You also need to alert all of the other aquatic facilities in your area, so they can treat their water, too. Studies have shown that pool patrons don't necessarily stick to one body of water, so the culprit may have taken the crypto to more than one facility.

Check out www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming to learn more about preventing and treating RWI outbreaks.