Feature Article - January 2012
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All Together Now

New Code Aims at Standards for Nation's Pools

By Wynn St. Clair


The first of the 12 modules was released in public comment in April 2011. Titled "Operator Training," the initiative seeks to minimize drowning, injuries and accidents by requiring a mandatory instruction period for pool operators. Currently, only 23 states have adopted requirements that public pool operators complete a minimum two-day training program, according to the NSPF. Studies cited in the MAHC reinforce the obvious: Minimum training helps operators prevent violations of health codes.

According to a recent CDC study, pool inspection data from 15 jurisdictions across the country indicated that 12.1 percent of inspections resulted in immediate closure because of the seriousness of identified violations.

In voicing support for the module, the NSPF cited historically poor track records when it comes to complying with public health codes. According to a recent CDC study, pool inspection data from 15 jurisdictions across the country indicated that 12.1 percent of inspections resulted in immediate closure because of the seriousness of identified violations; violations regarding the following issues are frequently identified: free chlorine level (10.7 percent of inspections), pH level (8.9 percent), other water chemistry (12.5 percent), filtration/recirculation system (35.9 percent), water test kit (3.3 percent), record keeping (10.9 percent) and licensure (2.7 percent).

"I am an aquatic engineer in Vermont," Cindy Burdett of Waterbury, Vermont, wrote to the CDC during the comment period. "Here in Vermont we have no swimming pool codes. Commercial pools are not required to have a certified operator overseeing the aquatic environment. I very much agree with the operator training requirements that have been written and encourage a speedy implementation of them."

Other modules are in various stages of development. Some have already gone through the first public comment period, and others are still in the steering committee or awaiting CDC clearance. When completed, the MAHC is expected to address RWI response, ventilation, facility operation, hygiene facilities, regulatory administration, water quality, contamination burden, facility design, recirculating and filtration systems, lifeguarding and monitoring.

"The MAHC is filling a gap," Beach said. "What we saw in the beginning, because all of the legislation and regulation is at a state and local level, and sometimes it wasn't in place at different counties within the state. That was not the best way to promote public health and safety."

The published public comments on the Model Aquatic Health Code show industry experts from across the country have taken a deep interest in the codes.

Beach acknowledged there could be some additional costs incurred by following the new codes, but added that the standards are supported by the data. At the end of the day, experts want to create a code that allows the public to see the benefits of aquatic recreation and that they are protected from the health deficits.

"I'm very passionate about this," he said. "I feel that this can be the most important thing I've ever done in my career. I want to see it grow and live."