Pristine swimming pools draw people in like flies to honey on a hot summer day. However, when pool cleaning is not optimized for your weather conditions and use, you run the risk of spreading recreational water illnesses that turn summertime fun into a gut-wrenching activity. Before opening your pool for the season, make sure you have a plan in place to keep swimmers healthy.
Pool Cleaning and Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI)
When your swimming pool is clean, everyone stays healthy. Keep in mind that even pools regularly treated with chemicals can have disease causing bacteria since some bugs are more resistant to chlorine and will take longer to die. A regular pool maintenance program keeps the level of bad bacteria populations down and reduces the risk of spreading infections.
The most common RWI is diarrhea. The Crypto bacterium, Cryprtosporidium, is found in the feces of an infected person. Due to its hard outer shell, it is particularly resistant to chlorine and will survive for long periods of time, even in pools with the correct levels of chlorine. This disease-bearing organism is passed when swimmers swallow water or breathe in mist from an infected pool. The simplest way to prevent bouts of diarrhea is to schedule regular bathroom breaks and ensure that swimmers rinse themselves off before entering the pool.
Other bacteria that cause gastro-intestinal stress, but are more sensitive to chlorine, include Giardia, the norovirus, Shigella, and E. coli O157:H7. The timetable for chlorine to do its work varies wildly.
1. E. coli O157:H7 is gone in under a minute.
2. The Hepatitus A virus lasts 15 minutes after coming into contact with chlorine.
3. The parasite, Giardia, dies within 45 minutes.
4. That Crypto bacteria that somehow made its way into your pool will remain alive for an average of 10.6 days, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Swimming Pools and Water Treatment Programs
To keep pools safe and healthy, both the pH and the chlorine levels must remain within an acceptable range. Pool professionals understand the delicate nature of this balance and help pool owners keep their families and friends swimming in a safe environment during summer.
Optimal pH levels are between 7.2 and 7.8. To be effective, chlorine levels must remain at 1–3 mg/L or parts per million [ppm]. Regular testing throughout the season and the addition of chemicals on an as-needed basis work wonders.
Keep in mind that the amount of heat within the water significantly impacts the amounts of pool chemicals that must be added. For example, hot tubs require a different approach. Because warmer water helps bacteria grow, a higher concentration of chlorine (between 2-4 ppm) is required.
Those small plastic pools that toddlers enjoy so much are a breeding ground for disease. When combining standing water with the feces in diapers, they present a significant health risk for your children. Pool experts recommend that these summer play areas be emptied on a regular basis and allowed to dry in the sun.
If an RWI does strike your swimming pool, it is vital that you shut it down until healthy conditions are restored. If you choose to do it yourself, keep in mind that the chemicals are often caustic and require safe handling, which is why many pool owners contract with pool companies for regular maintenance throughout the season. By properly maintaining your pool, you ensure a safe environment for summertime fun.