Fecal contamination in public pools - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Fecal contamination in public pools

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The Centers for Disease control announced this week that more than half of the public pools tested during last year's swim season came up positive for fecal contamination.

That means people are either having accidents in the pool -- or not doing a good enough job showering before they get in the pool.

The CDC's recent study found E. coli in 58% of the public pool filters they tested. Luckily, it wasn't the toxic strain that causes illness. But Cryptosporidium and Giarida, germs that are spread through feces and cause diarrhea, were found in about 2% of the samples.

In New Hanover County, all public pools, from hotel swimming pools to neighborhood pools to country club pools, have pH and chlorine levels inspected by the health department twice a year. There are additional inspections if someone files a complaint about a problem with a specific pool.

Last year, about a dozen complaints were filed. They ranged from concerns about murky water and algae, to multiple diaper accidents at the same pool, to safety concerns about drains and inoperable safety gates.

Proper chlorine levels go a long way, but health officials say there are other things swimmers should be doing, too.

"Don't ingest the water," recommends Joshua Swift, Deputy Health Director at the New Hanover County Health Department. "I know that's tough with small kids, but try to teach them to not do that. If your kid is sick - they've had a stomach bug or virus, they don't need to be in the pool." Certain viruses can be spread to other swimmers through the water.

The health department estimates that 10-20% of the county's 400 public pools fail their unannounced inspections. At that point, they are shut down until pool operators can bring their pH and chlorine content back to acceptable levels.

New Hanover County Health Department officials say they don't know of any reports in their department's history of someone getting ill as the result of swimming in a public pool. But if you really want to be sure the pool you are swimming in is safe - you can buy pool test strips at most superstores and pool supply stores.

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