While pools in strata are fantastic for maintaining and promoting active lifestyles for improved health and wellbeing, these facilities have been associated with the outbreak of illness.
Strata pool users, especially children, can be affected by disease-causing microorganisms that are passed through contaminated pool water, contaminated surfaces or through person-to-person contact.
Government guidelines can assist bodies corporate reduce risks to public health and cover all aspects of water quality risks associated with pool design (e.g. hydraulics), physical safety (e.g. slips and falls), drowning or sun protection.
The information and advice provided applies to all public aquatic facilities associated with apartment blocks, retirement complexes and strata title and body corporate developments and aquatic facilities associated with holiday accommodation, including holiday parks, hotels, holiday apartment complexes and motels.
Site-specific risk management plans
All public aquatic facilities are encouraged to have a site-specific risk management plan in place, however the use of risk management plans is particularly important for high-risk facilities. A site-specific risk management plan may include:
- A description of the facility, its source of water and its treatment systems;
- Staff roles and responsibilities, competency or training requirements;
- Water quality targets and treatment objectives;
- Hazard identification;
- Risk assessment;
- Identification of control measures;
- Specific incident report procedures;
- Operational monitoring;
- Data recording and reporting.
Strata swimming pools must maintain suitable water quality to prevent the spread of illness. Facilities are expected to have effective treatment barriers in place to reduce harmful microorganisms including viruses, bacteria and protozoan parasites.
Sources of Contamination in Swimming Pools
Potential sources of microbes in swimming pools may include:
- People swimming in the pool – this is the main source of microbes;
- Animals, such as dogs – some pets love to paddle in the pool on hot days;
- Dead wildlife- for example, frogs, lizards or insects may occasionally drown in your pool;
- Debris from around the property, such as leaves, grass and dust.
All strata swimming pools should adopt a multi-barrier approach which involves two or more types of treatment processes to address pathogen risk. Each barrier (treatment process) on its own may not be able to completely remove or prevent contamination, but together, the barriers work to provide greater assurance that the water will be safe for use. Treatment processes need to be operated, monitored and maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions to minimise variability in performance.
Swimming Pool Maintenance
The five keys to maintaining water quality in swimming pools include:
- Filtration – at a minimum, treatment processes should include filtration combined with primary (chlorine- or bromine-based) disinfection;
- pH level
- Total alkalinity (TA)
- Calcium hardness
The water in a pool is pumped through a filter to remove debris and particles. How long the filter needs to run depends on the size of the pool and the horsepower of the pool pump. Most pool filtration systems are not able to filter all the water in a pool so chlorination is a common and effective treatment often used alongside filtration to inactivate microbes that may be present in the pool water. The best maintained pools rely on multiple treatment barriers.
Additional considerations include bather numbers, water circulation and turnover times. In addition to trying to strike a realistic balance between the number of bathers it allows and the capacity of the facility and treatment plant, effective water circulation and short turnover times, in combination with filters that are capable of removing Cryptosporidium and/or secondary disinfection systems provide the highest level of protection.
The most common method for checking the water balance is to use the Langelier Saturation Index, which takes account of the water’s pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, total dissolved solids and temperature.
Safety Suggestions for Pool Chemicals
Pool chemicals can be dangerous if not handled properly.
- Keep pool chemicals away from other chemicals and locked up in a cool, dry place;
- Do not store pool chemicals near other chemicals or flammables, including petrol, detergents or alcohol;
- Always use chemicals strictly as instructed;
- Never combine chemicals together – for example, mixing different types of chlorine together (such as granular and liquid) can cause an explosion;
- To avoid splashing the chemicals, always add the chemicals to water and not the other way around;
- If you are splashed, rinse contaminated clothing straight away and wash your skin thoroughly in plenty of water.
Aquatic facilities in strata should also maintain a record of operational and verification monitoring results for at least 12 months. Monitoring logs should be filled out when samples are analysed and then retained on site.
Where to get help?
- Swimming Pool and Spa Association
- Pool chemical suppliers
- Pool maintenance companies
- Environmental Health Officer at your local council
You can also utilise QLD Government resources here.