13 Pool & Spa Compliance Risks and How to Avoid Them
July 7, 2022
Pool and spa compliance problems plague public facilities each year and cause the shutdown of thousands of commercial aquatic properties nationwide, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report went on to disclose that close to 80% of commercial aquatic facilities had at least one violation and 12% were forced to undergo immediate closure of the facility in order to take care of the health and safety violations.
The most frequent public pool compliance violations were concentrated in children’s wading and kiddie pools due to noncompliant disinfection concentration. Compliance problems with safety equipment in all aquatic facilities also tops the list for compliance risk violations. Another area of common violations relates to improper water pH and disinfection concentration.
As the mercury rises, thousands of people and families flock to public aquatic facilities to cool off. Crowded pool conditions pose significant dangers if management does not proactively maintain the water and equipment in a safe manner. The pool can quickly become contaminated with fecal matter, Cryptosporidium parasites (and others), and dangerous, caustic chemicals that cause skin, respiratory tract, and eye irritation.
In 2013, the CDC launched the Network for Aquatic Facility Inspect and Surveillance to monitor public pool safety. Since its creation, the organization has revealed over 650 outbreaks and compliance violations.
One of the biggest pool compliance violations in the U.S. occurred at an Ohio water park resort in 2007. The water’s chlorine became mixed with sweat and urine which led to the development of chloramines. There were 665 cases of respiratory tract problems and eye irritations reported by the pool’s patrons to local health authorities.
13 Common Pool and Spa Compliance Problems and Solutions
Reports show that eight out of 10 public pool inspections reveal at least one safety violation which causes the aquatic facility to fail the health and safety inspections. Around one in eight of the inspections uncovered severe problems that demanded the immediate closure of the pools.
1. pH Problems in Aquatic Facilities
Topping our list of the most common pool compliance risks is pH problems at aquatic facilities. A pool’s pH level indicates the acidity and alkalinity of the water. With a pH level of 7, the water is considered neutral. When the number rises over 7 then the water is alkaline and a number that dips below 7 is acidic.
When the pH level increases to 8 or higher than anyone swimming in the pool is susceptible to skin rashes, burning eyes, and respiratory problems.
To avoid pH pool compliance problems, maintain the pool’s pH level between 7.4 to 7.6.
Things that can impact an aquatic facility’s pH level include heavy rain and an abundance of swimmers.
It is imperative that you and your aquatics team regularly check the pH level of the pool to avoid pH compliance issues. With VivoPoint and VivoAquatics, we take the guesswork out of knowing your pool's pH.
Our VivoAquatic systems embrace automation so you can effortlessly stay current on your water’s pH levels to keep swimmers safe. You’ll have daily logs of the pool’s chemistry readings and also enjoy 24/7 manual readings. The software even lets you track chemical usage trends, water safety, and water usage so you can ensure your water’s pH remains safe at all times.
2. Proper Chlorination
Chlorine is used to effectively disinfect the water of pools and spas to protect swimmers. Effective filtration helps maintain the proper chlorine level. Check with local regulations to calculate the needed turnover rate to ensure continued compliance.
Aquatic facility managers usually maintain the free chlorine level of the water at one and three parts per million. Always check the local code to determine specific chlorine levels because some locations might require higher levels based on the pool or spa type. The effectiveness of adequately maintaining the chlorine level hinges on a variety of things such as the pH of the pool. Unwanted and foreign substances like body oils, perspiration, urine, and locations also react negatively with chlorine. They become what is referred to as ‘chlorine demand.’
A chemical reaction occurs between the substances and the chlorine which creates an irritant known as chloramines (dichloramine and trichloramine) and can commonly cause a condition referred to as ‘swimmer's red-eye.’ The substances give off a gas that is heavier than air. The gas hovers above the water's surface.
With indoor aquatic facilities, the gas can become exceptionally potent. Swimmers and guests will experience a burning throat, stinging eyes, coughing, sneezing, and difficulty breathing.
An abundance of chloramines also causes the metal in the aquatic facility’s equipment and air handling systems to corrode. Heavily corroded equipment will malfunction or completely fail. You’ll face costly repairs or replacements that could have been avoided by simply maintaining proper chlorination on a daily basis.
Once the reaction between the chlorine and impurities occurs, there is less chlorine to adequately counter and kill germs which can lead to waterborne illnesses and pool compliance violations. In such circumstances, the pool may require additional chlorine to overcome the problem.
Many things can impact your pool’s chlorine level such as the following:
- Pump and filtration system
- Water level
- Water temperature
- Number of swimmers
Typically, city, county, and state departments will impose a limit on the combined chlorine found in a pool’s water at a rate of 0.4 ppm or less.
Chloramine gasses can pose a problem during the winter when the aquatic facility’s space requires heating. Often improving the air handling systems on indoor aquatic facilities help circulate fresh air and then exhaust the chloramine pollution away from the building.
3. Recreational Water Illnesses
Any time you maintain a commercial pool or spa system, you’ll have to learn how to prevent recreational water illnesses (RWIs) or face pool compliance problems and closures. Infrequent maintenance leads to a low level of disinfectants in the water. Eventually, germs will start to flourish and can infect swimmers causing diarrhea, respiratory problems, and skin issues.
Even if you employ a team of pool staff, the dangers of RWIs remain. You cannot rely solely on automation, but it is an effective tool to help ensure compliance.
Avoid RWIs with the following:
- Employ skilled staff who have state and local authority chemical handling training.
- Ensure that trained staff works seven days a week (including holidays) to keep the pool and spa clean and safe.
- Maintain the pool’s free chlorine levels at a rate of one to three parts per million.
- Keep the pH level between 7.4 to 7.6.
- Test the pH, temperature, and chlorine levels of the water. Local regulations determine how often you must check. In some locations, you’ll need to test daily, some require testing three to four times per day or hourly checks.
- Maintain records on all pH levels and disinfectants based on local regulations.
- Conduct regular maintenance.
- Maintain the aquatic facility’s recirculation and filtration systems.
- Regularly remove debris from the pool’s water and surfaces.
- Keep the area around the pool clean, especially diaper changing areas, showers, and restrooms.
- Ensure safety in the area surrounding the pool to prevent sliding, slipping, falling, or other accidents.
- Enforce capacity load limits for swimmers.
- Carry out preventive maintenance programs.
- Replace parts and equipment when needed. Injectors, sensor probes, and feed pump tubing regularly go out.
- Follow disinfection guidelines if any sort of spill such as body fluids or fecal matter should occur in the pool or spa’s water.
- Maintain a firm employee policy to carry out if one of your staff becomes sick with RWIs.
- Enforce a firm set of rules for all swimmers to follow to help promote a healthy swimming facility.
4. Maintaining Chemicals
All commercial pool and spa facilities use a variety of chemicals to create a balanced environment and ensure compliance. However, they have to keep the pool chemicals safe in a storage area or pump room. If a chemical spill should occur in the storage areas, then you must stop any chemical leaks and prevent them from mixing with other chemicals.
Additional tips to ensure compliance with chemicals include:
- Keep fire suppression equipment within easy reach. Ideally, you should contact the code enforcement agency and fire department to obtain the guidelines for your local region.
- Always have adequate lighting at the pool facility to read pool chemical container labels, instructions, and other valuable information.
- Familiarize yourself with the building codes at American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to make sure the facility’s air handling system is sufficient to handle ventilation and avoid the buildup of chemical vapors.
- Lock the chemical room to keep patrons, children, or pets out of the storage and pump room.
- Ensure that all chemical controllers work properly and have a locking mechanism.
- Keep personal protective equipment (PPE) within easy access of the chemical storage area.
- Maintain the pool chemicals at the manufacturer’s recommended temperature.
- Avoid exposing the pool chemicals to direct sunlight or humidity changes.
- Keep all chemicals in labeled containers
- Dispose of any unwanted chemicals by following the manufacturer’s instructions. You can contact the local or state hazardous materials department to find out the proper disposal method.
- Store all pool chemicals away from flames, heat, or other flammable materials.
- Ensure the pump room and chemical storage room is sanitary and free of trash.
- Never store food or drinks near pool chemicals
- Post all pool chemical instructions and safety practices in the storage area and pump room.
- Quickly respond to any chemical spill with an emergency response plan to effectively clean up the spill.
5. Maintenance and Repair
Part of ensuring pool and spa compliance is taking care of any necessary repairs and maintaining your pool and spa equipment. If your recirculation system should fail or run poorly then your entire aquatic facility will need to be closed while you work on the recirculation system and handle the pH/chlorine control feed.
You cannot allow any swimming in the pool or spa until you rectify the problem with the chlorine/pH control feed and recirculation system. You’ll need to also run the system to make sure it is reaching acceptable levels and standards.
Aquatic facility maintenance and repair tips include:
- Ensure adequate ventilation throughout the entire pool facility and pump room.
- Rely only on trained staff and lifeguards.
- Service your aquatic facility’s systems such as the recirculation systems and chlorine control feed.
- Always have steadfast protocols in place to prevent chemicals from accidentally mixing.
- Document any repairs and maintenance practices performed.
- Regularly check for leaks, defects, and other variables that can impact the pool and spa equipment.
- Replace aging parts such as tubing when needed.
- Regularly check the area around the pool for possible cracks or other dangers.
- Inspect the pool and spa for structural problems such as cracking, chipping, or heaving.
- Clean up any spill that could cause a slippery surface in restrooms, locker rooms, and other areas.
- Post and enforce pool safety rules.
6. Maintain an Emergency Response Plan
Failing to have an emergency response plan in place puts your facility at risk. You’ll want to draft an in-depth emergency response plan for your staff to follow. Post the plan in plain view in an area such as the break room, chemical storage area, or pump room. Also, send the response plan electronically to the staff’s mobile devices for rapid and easy access.
Carry out drills with staff that focus on following the emergency response plan.
When devising the plan, make sure you include the following:
- List what to do if a chemical spill should occur.
- Devise a chemical exposure-response plan.
- List the chain of common with all emergency contact information.
- Outline steps to take to alert aquatic patrons, swimmers, and staff if an emergency should occur.
- Detail an evacuation plan.
7. Pool Filtration
Your pool and spa rely on an effective filtration system to remove debris and particles. Each system is different, and you’ll need to determine how long to run the filtration system based on the size of the pool and the pump’s horsepower.
Even the best filtration system cannot filter out all of the water from the aquatic facility. You’ll also need to depend on effective chlorination to effectively inactivate harmful and dangerous microbes in the water. Always remember the best pool filtration system that lets you remain compliant actually needs to be combined with multiple treatment barriers.
Contamination is an ongoing risk at any commercial pool and spa. You’ll need to constantly maintain water safety to ensure pool compliance. It’s always easier to prevent health and safety problems than tackle the problem once it occurs and face a shutdown.
Your staff should have formal training to maintain the aquatic facility’s water quality, check and clean the pool’s filtration system, and keep the swimmers safe. Reach out to your local and state health department’s pool inspectors to find out about local pool operations training courses. The classes should meet the state and local requirements.
8. Germ Treatment Time is Crucial
Fecal matter in a pool or spa causes RWIs by contaminating the water. Chlorine can effectively kill most germs within minutes, but not all. Cryptosporidium often takes days to kill even if your staff manages to reach and maintain the proper chlorine ratio.
Your staff should familiarize themselves with exactly how long it takes for chlorine to kill germs in an aquatic environment.
The following time frames are outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Crypto - 10 plus days
- E.coli 0157:H7 Bacteria - less than a minute
- Giardia - 45 minutes
- Hepatitis A - 16 minutes
9. Water Contamination
Fecal matter is the number one cause of water contamination in a pool. However, vomit and blood also account for frequent pool contamination.
A swimmer might vomit in the pool because of sickness or because they accidentally swallowed an excessive amount of pool water. Even irritation of the throat often leads to a coughing fit which causes rapid vomiting. However, even if the swimmer is not sick, vomit still has the potential to spread diseases and lead to water contamination.
Blood is another water contaminate that might occur during menstruation or from an accident that the swimmer sustains. Blood can spread HIV, and Hepatitis.
Your aquatic staff will need to respond rapidly to clean up the vomit and blood before the contamination causes pool compliance problems. The staff should follow the same protocol to clean blood and vomit as they do to clean up fecal matter. Chlorine remains an effective option to rid the pool of blood or vomit dangers.
10. Air Circulation Problems
Indoor aquatic facilities often experience a buildup of moisture in the air due to the failure of the air handling system. The system, due to age, poor maintenance, or improper sizing, simply cannot pull in a sufficient amount of clean air. The system can also fail to successfully exhaust the chloramine air pollution out of the facility.
In order to stay compliant and protect your patrons, you’ll need to invest in a newer air handling system or have a trained HVAC technician work on your existing system to accurately diagnose the problem.
11. Lack of Necessary Data
You cannot safely operate an aquatic facility and ensure pool and spa compliance by being in the dark. Sticking your head in the sand and pretending there is no problem will not fix anything. In fact, if you need to monitor your facility’s operations and data then you cannot remain compliant.
Luckily, VivoPoint commercial pool and spa operations software gives you the edge and information you need to ensure pool compliance via smart technology. You can effectively prevent problems and keep your facility running smoothly.
The software system gives you the reports and predictive analytics you need to successfully manage the facility.
The aquatics platform is customizable to fit your unique property needs. Also, the system is easy to implement.
VivoPoint lets you maintain pool compliance, provides daily logs, and gives you a task list. The software also lets you effortlessly budget, track assets and even make informed purchasing choices.
With the aquatic’s software, you’ll know instantly if your water is compliant with MAHC (Model Aquatics Health Code). You’ll receive automatic alerts if there is any problem so you can stay on your toes when overseeing the facility.
Enjoy the following perks with VivoPoint:
- Lower chemical costs
- Reduced water usage
- Extended equipment function
- Lower labor costs
12. Failure to Take a Proactive Approach
If you don’t take a proactive approach when managing an aquatic facility, then the operation might start to experience issues that lead to compliance problems. With VivoAquatics, you enjoy 360-degree visibility into your entire aquatic facility operations. In addition, automation monitoring helps create even greater visibility.
The combination of modular hardware with sensor platform will monitor and regulate your aquatic facility’s water chemistry while providing you with valuable insights into all aspects of the operation.
13. Being MIA
If you are not present at your commercial pool and spa facility, then you cannot effectively manage things. If you don’t catch things quickly then you face pool compliance nightmares. However, with VivoAquatic software solutions, you can run a tight ship from afar, even if you aren’t physically at your commercial pool and spa.
You can effortlessly connect using iOS or Android mobile devices. You can control things from your desktop or laptop. The VivoAquatics software helps you find solutions and prevent problems at your commercial pool and spa facility.
Our system is easy to implement, and you’ll have it up and running quickly using the complete integrated communications bundle. Best of all, the platform lets you customize things to meet your property’s needs.
The VivoAquatics team works closely with facility operators and owners to ensure compliance so you can avoid the above 13 pool and spa compliance risks. Let us help you manage costs, streamline operations, and maintain the safety of swimmers. We can help you create a superior guest experience at your commercial aquatic facility while avoiding being found non-compliant by authorities.