Most people are unaware of the guidelines and regulations that apply to the operation of public swimming pools, spas and water parks. Public swimming pools are widely utilized in this country. Apartment complexes, neighborhoods, gyms, YMCAs, and water parks commonly provide swimming pools for patrons and members.
A facility which manages or operates a public swimming pool is required to have, on staff, a certified pool operator and to follow certain requirements in checking, maintaining and assuring adequate chlorine and pH levels. Every swimming pool (or body of water) has bacteria. Bacteria can be introduced into the water by swimmers, by environmental conditions (such as rain or water runoff), or by animals. The number of occupants in a pool, the sun’s UV rays and the temperature are factors that contribute to survivability of bacteria and the breakdown of chlorine levels.
The properly maintained chlorine and pH levels help to minimize or avoid the risk of bacteria being ingested by swimmers or patrons of water parks. Failure to do so, however, can result in exposure to the bacteria, including Cryptosporidium, Escherichia coli (e. coli) and other dangerous bacteria. E. coli can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or worse conditions, such as kidney failure.
While young children and the elderly are at greatest risk of developing serious complications from exposure to e. coli and other bacteria, any person can become ill to the point of having gastrointestinal upset. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these illnesses are referred to as “recreational water illnesses (RWI).” According to the CDC, RWIs “are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans.”
While it has been known for decades about the presence of bacteria in water samples, the issue first became prevalent in 1982, following a pool party at a mobile home park in Georgia. Following the party, 18 of the 51 attendees became ill with GI issues. Some of the participants contracted hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which resulted in renal failure. The investigating authorities determined that the pool was not adequately maintained and was the source of the infection.
Our firm recently settled the claims of two children with a local municipality. The children developed HUS after attending a camp, which included activities in the city’s splash park. As many as 16 children developed some form of GI issues, with three of the children becoming very ill. The Alabama Department of Public Health and the CDC did an excellent job in investigating the matter. The ADPH determined that the exposure source to the children was the water quality at the municipal facility. Since this lawsuit has been filed, the municipality has changed its procedures to check and maintain the water quality.
If you need more information on this subject, contact Ben Locklar, a lawyer in our Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com.
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