What Is Swimming Pool Contamination 

Swimming pool contamination is a significant issue with every private swimming pool or spa owner. It is also one of the main concerns of every pool operator of a recreational water facility. Pool water contamination does not only apply to your pool or spa.

In most cases, the surrounding air above the water of your swimming pool can contribute to unhealthy conditions for your pool or spa guests. This is usually because the water quality of your swimming pools or spas is so poorly managed (sanitized) and maintained that they become a very unhealthy environment.

Contamination of swimming pools and spas is a gate way for the transmission of diseases which are caused by pathogens. The transmission of illnesses is the result of swimming pool or spa water, which is not filtered or poorly treated.

How does a pool get contaminated? 

Major causes of spa and swimming pool contamination usually occurs from microorganisms lurking in the pool water. Outdoor pools can be contaminated by bird droppings, algae, dirt, leaves, and rain surface runoff.

These micro contaminants get into your water facility by:

  • Infected swimmers.
  • Make-up water from an unsanitary source.
  • Waterborne contamination. This can be from rainfall (acid rain) and bird droppings.

Preventing your swimming pool or spa users from becoming ill is your number one concern. Contact or ingestion of contaminated water will make your pool guests terribly ill.

To avoid spa and swimming pool contamination, you need to sanitize the water constantly and consistently in your swimming facility. This is accomplished with the correct pool and spa chemicals.

Diseases Caused By Swimming Pool Contamination

People can become severely ill from poorly sanitized spas and swimming pools. Keeping them from disease causing bacteria, is one of the biggest reasons we have public health departments. Public health departments often require private and public pool operators to demonstrate their competency.

This is usually carried out through a series of classes. Contaminated water from your pool or spa, often lead to illnesses like:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Skin rashes.
  • Ear infections (swimmer's ear).
  • Upper respiratory infections. This illness often occurs when swimmers submerge their heads underwater or if they swallow water that is contaminated.

According to statistics, sickness and infections that are associated with swimming pools, spas, and other recreational water facilities have been linked to fecal contamination.

Fecal contamination often comes from swimmers, your facility, or in some cases, make-up water that comes from a contaminated water source.

Most water safety problems are responsible for most of the disease outbreaks reported for swimming pools. This is usually due to poorly maintained disinfection systems (Chlorine feeders) or in some cases no disinfection at all.

How To Prevent Swimming Pool Contamination

Ensuring the safety of your swimming pool users is priority number one. This includes keeping them from waterborne disease carrying bacteria that can make them extremely ill. The solution to this water quality issue is simple. Properly maintain your pool sanitation systems. 

We must always be aware that swimming pool and spa users are the primary source of water contamination. The keys to maintaining your pool water quality in maintaining your swimming pool filtration, chlorination, pH level, total alkalinity (TA) and calcium hardness.

If your sanitation or disinfectant system is not working properly or not at all, you will have to close your facility until you have corrected the problem/s. This is in accordance with health code standards. Remember safety of your guests come first and this is done through good water quality standards.

Swimming Pool Contamination Not Fecal Related

As I mentioned earlier, most of the illnesses that have been reported are linked to swimming pools that are contaminated. These reported illnesses are caused by viruses; consequently, the most recent reports show that the outbreaks are more related to bacteria and protozoa.

Contaminants to your pool or spa do not necessarily have to be fecal related. Contaminants that are linked to human shedding also play a role in the overall health of your guests. These human shedding are major sources of potential non-enteric pathogenic organisms that include:

  • Mucus.
  • Saliva.
  • Skin.

Human shedding like the ones listed above, are direct contaminants for your swimming facilities. This also includes the surrounding surfaces, of other objects in your facilities as well. These surfaces can have an enormous number of disease-causing bacteria on them.

Notably, these contaminated surfaces will cause serious infections to other swimmers that encounter them.

Organisms That Contribute To Swimming Pool Contamination

Bacteria that are opportunistic pathogens, can fall from swimmers and be transmitted to other users. As I mentioned earlier, these disease-causing pathogens can be transmitted through contaminated water in both swimming pools and spas.

Furthermore, there are certain free living aquatic bacteria and amoeba that are known to compromise water safety. Such opportunistic pathogens can grow in areas of your facility that include:

  • The water to your swimming pool or spa.
  • The heating system of your facility.
  • The ventilation system of your facility.
  • The air conditioning (HVAC) system for your facility.

These pathogens can also be found in other wet locations within your recreational water facility. As a result of the invasion of these microorganisms, a variety of respiratory, dermal, or central nervous system infections occur. Air contaminants in an indoor pool environment are just as bad because they can have a harmful effect on your guests.

If your swimming pools and spas are indoors, you must maintain a good water sanitation system that will ensure good water quality in your facility. This process will also ensure that the air quality in your swimming facility is maintained as well.

When you achieve this, you protect your guests from any long-term swimming pool contamination due to the contaminants.

Proper maintenance will also keep the level of chloramines (chlorine odor), to a minimum. Good swimming pool care will eliminate the by-products of your disinfectants. It is our job as pool and spa owners/operators, to maintain good water quality and provide a minimal number of risks to our guests due to swimming pool contamination.

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