Poop! In the Pool!

Do your lifeguards and board members know what steps to take when there’s poop in the pool? It’s not all that complicated, but someone needs to know what to do.

Let’s face it, those of us that are parents know that even the best-laid plans sometimes backfire. Sometimes that perfect diapering fails to contain the mess. You think you’ve put on the world’s best diaper, only to find poop literally up your baby’s back! No parent is bringing their diapered child to the pool hoping they poop in the pool. But it’s gonna happen anyway. At least once this summer. So be prepared.

  1. Close the pool to all swimmers. If your filtration system services multiple pools (e.g., the baby pool, the lap pool, and the main pool), you need to close all pools.
  2. Remove as much of the poop as possible using a net or bucket, disposing of the poop in the restroom.
    1. Wear gloves!
    2. Do NOT vacuum up the poop! It will infect the vacuum.
    3. CLEAN the tools used for poop removal after using them!
    4. Also, DISINFECT the tools used for poop removal by keeping them in the water during the disinfection process.
  3. Raise the water’s free chlorine concentration level to 2-3 parts per million (ppm).
    • The level should be much higher (like 20 ppm) if someone has diarrhea in the pool (rather than just a baby pooping a solid stool in the pool).
    • Even if you normally use bromine in your pool, you NEED to use chlorine to shock the pool for disinfection.
    • Note that free chlorine levels are not the same as total chlorine levels. While safe swimming levels for total chlorine are generally between 2-10 ppm, safe swimming levels for free chlorine are closer to 0.1 ppm.
  4. Make sure the filtration system is working, that the pH level is 7.5, and that the free chlorine level remains at (or above) 2 ppm to disinfect the pool.
    • It should only take about 30 minutes for the water to be disinfected, but it will take longer for the pool to get back down to safe chlorine levels before swimmers can re-enter the pool.
    • It will take more like 12 hours to disinfect a pool if there was diarrhea rather than a solid stool.
  5. After an hour, test the water for fecal coliform or e.coli.
  6. Rebalance the levels of chlorine and other chemicals.
  7. Only allow people back in the pool when levels are safe for swimming (e.g., 2 ppm total chlorine, 0.1 ppm free chlorine, pH 7.2-7.8).

Happy and safe swimming this summer! And don’t forget to educate your members on safe swimming practices to keep everyone safe and healthy at the pool this year.

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