Supplement Feature - February 2013
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Calm Water

Trends in Aquatic Health & Safety

By Wynn St. Clair

Few things matter more to an aquatic center's prosperity than the health and safety standards that the facility adopts.

It's one of the most critical issues facing the pool industry today, yet it's one continuously hobbled by disparate codes and an uneducated public. Fortunately, progressive recreation managers have allies willing to help them in their quest to make facilities safer and more sanitary. Whether it's funding research, analyzing best practices or reducing drowning risks, the federal government and industry advocates are working tirelessly to improve our pools.

The Model Aquatic Health Code

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, is expected this year to finalize the Model Aquatic Health Code, a guidance document that can help local and state authorities make swimming and other water activities both healthier and safer. The MAHC, as it's commonly known, will offer non-binding standards for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of public pools, waterparks, spas and other aquatic facilities.

It also will give U.S. aquatic facilities a groundbreaking opportunity to be on the same page when it comes to health and safety standards. There currently is no federal regulatory authority responsible for pools and waterparks, meaning each state and town must write its own code.

While there are benefits to localized power and autonomy, the disparate codes and standards long have been a source of concern for industry advocates and the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first industry standard was issued in 1958 and in the subsequent 53 years, no two states have had the same code.

That is expected to change shortly.

The advisory code will tackle 14 key areas, including contamination burden, water quality, lifeguarding, recirculation systems and training, among others. Communities are not required to follow any part of the MAHC, though experts will promote its complete adoption in the coming year.

"This is an opportunity to improve safety and health at aquatic facilities across the country. The public will benefit from it, and so will the entire aquatic industry," said Dr. Michael Beach, the CDC's associate director for healthy water. "It's a guidance document, not a national code. It will need to be adopted in each location to be the standard."

As part of code's development, the CDC and industry experts put together 14 modules, which have gone through an arduous vetting process. Under the initiative, each module was developed by the appropriate technical committee, approved by the steering committee and posted for public comment for 60 days. The steering committee and appropriate technical committee then review the input and revise the modules accordingly. Once all the modules have been revised after their respective 60-day reviews, the entire MAHC will be posted for another 60-day public comment period to allow the public to review the new code in its entirety and check it for thoroughness. All comments will be addressed by the committee, along with an explanation as to why they were or were not incorporated in the final draft.