Running an aquatic facility isn t without challenges. Any misstep results in violations, puts your swimmers at risk, and might harm your reputation which will impact profitability.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released areport that showed that 80 percent of aquatic facilities experienced at least a single violation each year. Out of that number, 12 percent of the facilities were immediately closed due to the gravity of the health and safety violation. In the report, not all pool types were identified, but those that were listed showed that kiddie and wading pools experienced the most prevalent number of closures.
During the inspections of commercial swimming pools and spas, the leading problem listed was noncompliant disinfectant levels which makes the facilities at risk of a potential outbreak. Swimming pool violations that concerned safety equipment were also quite common.
The top health inspection violations to occur at commercial pools and spas include:
- Wrong water pH level.
- Broken, missing, insufficient, or improper safety equipment.
- Low levels of chlorine.
- Cloudy water which makes visibility impossible (cannot see the bottom of the pool).
Every aquatic facility owner should follow the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) guidelines to ensure the safety and health of their patrons. MAHC provides guidance backed by signs to keep public pools, spas, and water playgrounds safe by focusing on the aquatic facility s design/construction, management, and operation. Most health jurisdictions use all or certain parts of MAHC to draft and update their codes to focus on reducing waterborne outbreaks, drawing, or pooling chemical mishaps.
When operating your facility, you should familiarize yourself with all aspects of MAHC to follow Swimming Pool Code Requirements and avoid swimming pool violations.
Problems that May Lead to Pool Spa Violations
Wrong Water pH Level
How Does Improper pH Balance Leads to Swimming Pool Violations?
If you ignore the pH levels, then you will inevitably face swimming pool violations. All commercial pools and spas require balanced alkalinity and ph. When the pH level starts to dip, the water becomes acidic. The water might look clear when acidic, but it can quickly start to damage the pool s equipment and cause major problems and breakdowns.
Low pH levels often damage and causes corrosion to the following pool and spa equipment which leads to safety issues:
- Chemical feeder
A high pH balance is extremely dangerous because it deactivates chlorine. Without adequate chlorine, pathogens will start to thrive in the water along with algae, bacteria, and other organisms. When the pH becomes unbalanced, the pool will require additional chlorine which can end up becoming costly.
When the pH level skyrockets the water also starts to become murky with minerals which can make it difficult for a lifeguard to see someone floating on the bottom of the pool. Poor visibility is extremely dangerous. The elevated levels of minerals will also cause an accumulation of mineral deposits around the rim of the pool which looks unsightly and is difficult to clean.
To maintain the proper pH in your commercial swimming pool, you ll need to have your staff conduct frequent testing. Aquatic maintenance software, such as VivoPoint also helps you stay ahead of any pH changes. Whenever the pH is off, you ll need to promptly adjust the chemicals in the pool or spa s water.
Oils, chlorine, debris, sweat, and rain all alter your pool s pH levels. Everything becomes a balancing act, but the right aquatic maintenance software can help you stay ahead and avoid swimming pool violations. Once you know what is off then you can make the necessary adjustments.
Broken, Missing, Insufficient, or Improper Safety Equipment.
Swimming pool code requirements are extremely strict when it comes to maintaining equipment to ensure the safety of patrons. Constant monitoring and maintenance help you avoid health and safety issues which will prevent swimming pool violations. Broken or improper safety equipment all pose dangers to patrons and can lead to violations. Common swimming pool violations include missing life saving flotation devices and broken barriers or fencing.
Always keep the deck clear and check for any obstructions around the pool s perimeter. Pool furniture must be kept at least five feet away from the water's edge. There should be no obstructions in the pool s exits or entrances.
Health departments require functional safety equipment such as a shepherd s crook, first aid kit, and toss ring.
- Shepherd s Hook: The shepherd s hook must be rigidly attached to a 16 ft pole and have an 18-inch opening that will support up to 150 pounds.
- Toss Ring: A toss ring attached to a rope to increase toss distance.
- Floating Safety Rope: Depending on the region your pool is located; some officials require a floating safety rope that denotes any slope in the pool s floor such as where the floor moves from the four-foot depth to the six-foot depth.
Staff must constantly check to ensure filters work properly, chemical balance stays accurate and water levels appropriate.
Commercial pools have a high bather load which will clog filters quickly and create sanitary dangers. When the filters become clogged, your pumps risk breakdown.
Without proper filtration, water clarity takes a nosedive and lifeguards might struggle to see a swimmer in trouble or at the bottom of the pool.
The equipment of a commercial pool all shares a symbiotic relationship. They rely on each other to function properly. Filtration is one of the key components. Without proper filtration, your pool will need more costly chemicals and greater levels of maintenance. Equipment will break down and you ll be faced with costly repairs and replacements. Everything becomes a house of cards and can easily topple.
Commercial pool maintenance is very time sensitive and requires specific actions. Aquatic maintenance software like VivoPoint helps you and your staff stay ahead because you have all the necessary data at your disposal. It s also critical that you invest in skilled pool professionals to carry out the daily maintenance necessities to keep your patrons safe and your equipment functioning properly.
Regular pool sanitization is a necessity. The prominent level of swimmers causes the pool s sanitization to become unbalanced. Dangerous bacteria can thrive in the water which leads to swimmers becoming ill. You ll face swimming pool violations and more. Too much sanitizer and chlorine can also lead to serious problems like swimmers eyes and skin problems.
The CDC reports that from 2003 to 2012 there were 3,000 to 50,000 visits to emergency rooms nationwide due to health events such as chemical burns to the skin and respiratory problems from improper balances at commercial aquatic facilities. The damage to the equipment also quickly becomes widespread.
To keep equipment running smoothly and ensure the safety of your patrons, you need to run widespread water analysis at least once per day which will check for total bromine, free chlorine residual, acid, pH, and alkali demand. Most commercial pool operators also check alkalinity, calcium hardness, copper, iron, and CYA once per month.
VivoAquatics software gives you the data you need to stay up to date on all levels at your pool facility to avoid swimming pool violations.
On occasion, even commercial pools require draining to deep clean the pool, run equipment checks, correct chemicals, and pH. You ll need to use the proper tools and methods for your facility to effectively conduct the maintenance project.
All commercial pools are complex ecosystems that need diligent maintenance to avoid equipment breakdown and violations that can lead to a closure. You can reduce the likelihood of major problems arising, keep your facility open and avoid swimming pool violations.
Low Levels of Chlorine
Your commercial pool depends on proper chlorine management to prevent outbreaks of recreational water illnesses (RWIs) such as Cryptosporidium (Crypto) Shigella, Giardia, and E. coli. RWIs take over the water rapidly if the pool s chlorine is low and the water has been exposed to infected fecal matter from a sick swimmer or a child s leaking swim diaper.
If the proper chlorine level is maintained then the RWIs become inactive, but Crypto is harder to kill. Once Crypto becomes established in the water it can take several days for the chlorine to effectively kill the bacteria because it has a tough outer shell that functions as an effective armor against short term exposure to the chemical. If your pool has a Crypto outbreak then you should follow the step-by-step guide provided by the CDC (after checking your state and local regulations and guidelines) on how to properly hyperchlorinated the pool s water to kill a crypto outbreak to avoid swimming pool violations.
Swimming pool violations due to RWI frequency have steadily risen at commercial facilities. The CDC reports that incidences of RWIs continue to increase each year at aquatic facilities nationwide.
Monitoring pool chemical levels is a necessity to prevent RWIs. Everything has a domino effect. If you fail to maintain the pool s pH level, then it will reduce the effectiveness of the chlorine leaving your patrons susceptible to RWI s. When the pool's equipment malfunctions or fails to operate at optimum labels then the recirculation and filtration systems falter leaving the water in danger of inadequate chlorine levels. Regular checks throughout the facility can catch problems early.
The CDC recommends the following:
- pH 7.2 to 7.8
- Free chlorine concentration of at least 1ppm for swimming pools
- When using cyanuric acid or products containing cyanuric acid the pH should be 7.2 - 7.8 with a chlorine concentration of at least 2ppm.
Always evaluate free chlorine concentration twice per day and pH twice per day. If the pool is being heavily used, then you ll want to test more throughout the day.
Pool aquatic maintenance software VivoPoint ensures you stay current with your pool s chlorine levels and more. The software offers integrated calculations for dosing, so the pool s water always remains balanced.
Poor Water Clarity (Cloudy Pool Water)
You might scoff over the water being slightly murky or less than transparent, but cloudy pool water poses a serious health risk to your patrons. The CDC flags commercial pools with cloudy water as a serious public health risk due to the risk of drowning, RWIs, and the potential for urinary tract infection (UTI).
Drowning in Cloudy Water
If lifeguards cannot clearly see the bottom of the pool, then they might miss a person struggling in the water or trapped under the surface. The pool's drain should always be clearly visible. If the drain at the bottom of the pool is not visible in the pool s deepest end, then it is not safe to swim because the water is simply too cloudy.
UTIs and RWIs
E coli often flourishes in cloudy water and can lead to either RWIs or UTIs. Patrons often believe that the pool is safe to swim in if the water smells strongly of chlorine even if it is cloudy. However, the smell has nothing to do with the levels of chlorine. The chlorine smell comes from chloramine which is a chemical compound that occurs when chlorine starts to react to contaminants.
When a pool smells strongly of chlorine then it is a red flag that there are too many contaminants in the pool s water and not a sufficient level of chlorine to combat them. Even the chloramine poses a risk to patrons by causing eye irritation, redness, and itching.
Water with excessive chloramines and contaminants puts swimmers at risk of contracting E. coli bacteria.
Correcting Cloudy Water
If the pool s water is cloudy then you ll need to immediately close the pool until you can clear the water.
If the commercial pool has cloudy water, then you ll want to have your staff check the filtration systems. It might be time for maintenance. You ll also want to evaluate the pump system to ensure proper function. If both the filtration and pump systems have no problems, then a chemical imbalance, such as improper pH balance, is probably leading to the cloudy water. If the pool s water becomes excessively hot, then it can dramatically impact water clarity.
Swimming pool code requirements always focus on mitigating risk to patrons from pathogenic microorganisms that can infect the water. Every aquatic facility must have a water quality risk management plan to ensure the safety of patrons.
A successful water quality risk management plan includes:
- Defined job function of staff and their responsibilities, training, and competency levels.
- Detailed description of the entire aquatic facility such as its treatment systems and water source.
- Quality water objectives and needed treatments
- Identification of hazards
- Risk assessments
- Operational monitoring
- Data collection, recording and reporting
- Response procedures if an incident should occur
VivoPoint software gives you the edge you need in aquatic safety management. You can continuously monitor your pool s water risk profile with AI-driven analytics on the advanced aquatics operations platform. The software puts you in control of effortlessly managing the pool's compliance and risk mitigation to ensure safety. You can identify dangers and develop a successful management plan with the aquatics operation software so you can effectively mitigate hazards.
Every aquatic facility should also examine the needs of any vulnerable groups they service such as the elderly, children, pregnant individuals or immunocompromised. As an example, if you run a hospital aquatic facility or an aged care home with a public pool and spa then you may need to implement additional water quality controls such as increased checks to verify water quality. Aquatic water automation gives you the edge in maintaining your commercial swimming pool s water clarity.
To avoid swimming pool violations, you should always employ a certified aquatic facility operator or certified pool operator to oversee your staff and lifeguards while ensuring all the equipment functions at optimum performance. You ll also want to invest in a leading aquatics platform such as VivoPoint to maintain complete oversight of your pool s systems and operations. The software lets you effortlessly monitor your entire aquatic facility with AI-driven analytics. You ll receive notifications 24/7 so you never have to worry about chemical levels, pH, or water clarity.