Sadly, it often takes a tragedy to bring about positive changes. Such has been the case in waterpark safety. In 1998, 26 children were stricken by an E. coli outbreak at a waterpark near Atlanta, Georgia. Seven children were hospitalized and one died. Today, the legacy of the outbreak has led to sweeping changes in how waterparks monitor and treat their water.
An investigation into the outbreak found that fecal matter in the waterpark’s kiddie pool caused the high E. coli levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the 1998 incident increased national awareness of water contamination and forced waterparks to install new chemical monitoring and treatment equipment. Certified specialists test the water regularly throughout the day, using state and local codes, to confirm that bacteria-fighting chemicals remain in constant balance. At our local waterpark there is a sign that reads: “Every ten minutes before the odd hours, we ask for your cooperation in exiting the pools while a ten-minute safety break is conducted.” That’s when we see a team of testers sampling each water area.
However, the primary emphasis is placed on prevention. Waterpark employees are trained to observe that infants and young children entering the water have on specially designed disposable swim wear, which prevents leakage. Many facilities keep this type of swim wear available on-site, further encouraging parents in implementing these rules. You can also do your part to help keep waterparks sanitary by making sure that you use diaper-changing areas that are stationed well away from the water and that you wash your hands before returning to the pool. Another tip to help keep your children safe, teach them not to swallow water from the park’s pools. Chlorine and water pH readings are usually posted in multiple areas throughout the waterpark.
At most waterparks the “kiddie pool” is gone. Children’s areas now feature “zero-depth pools” with constantly moving water. No pools mean no standing water. Instead, small holes line the bottom of the area, filtering the water. These changes are the result of other family’s tragedies. If you are planning a trip to a waterpark, do some research first. Find out what rules and regulations are in place. Also, check to see if the “kiddie pools” have been scrapped in favor of fountain-type play areas that have no standing water. Go with your gut. If you feel like the waterpark is not sanitary, look for another one. A little extra effort will go a long way to keep you and your family safe.