Environmental Protection

CDC Suggests Regulating Municipal Splash Parks

Municipal swimming pool staffers and their patrons are well aware of waterborne disease potential, but a new report published in the June 12 edition of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) involves the same hazard at a different type of municipal attraction that is less likely to be regulated: a splash park.

These are unmonitored sites featuring interactive water features that spray, splash, or pour water on visitors but have no pools or standing water. Typically, they charge no admission. The water comes from a municipal system, flows onto concrete surfaces, and into drains, then recirculates through high-flow sand filters.

The report discusses a 2007 Cryptosporidium outbreak confirmed at an Idaho splash park where the water was chlorinated before recirculation. However, site inspectors also found young children were the predominant users, diapered children frequently sat atop splash features, soap and showers were not available in nearby restrooms, and public health educational signs were not posted. No hospitalizations or deaths were associated with the outbreak, the authors report, but an adjacent drinking fountain was found to be contaminated, and two backflow-prevention devices on those water lines were tested and replaced.

"The outbreak described in this report involved a recently constructed, unregulated splash park, with contributing factors related to design and operation that prior consultation with health department staff might have identified and corrected," the authors write. "State and local governments should consider including splash parks in the pool code and requiring preconstruction health department consultation, supplemental disinfection technology (e.g., ultraviolet light), appropriate hygiene facilities, and education of splash park operators and the public."

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