When Doug Sackett accepted a summer job inspecting pools for the New York State Department of Health, he never expected that decision would have such a lasting impact. Now, more than 30 years later, he’s still working for the NYSDOH.
His experience has proven invaluable to his work on the Model Aquatic Health Code, a project spearheaded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will ultimately establish a set of national standards for pool operation. As director of the project, Sackett’s charged with keeping the process moving and overseeing the technical committees responsible for writing various sections of the code.
But even before work on the Model Aquatic Health Code began in 2007, Sackett, then assistant director of the Bureau of Community Environmental Health & Food Protection for the NYSDOH, was already making waves in the industry.
In 2005 the state was hit with one of the largest cryptosporidium outbreaks ever connected to recreational water. Several thousand people were sickened after exposure at a spraypark in Geneva, N.Y., resulting in a class action lawsuit. Recognizing that sprayparks posed a serious health threat due to the fact that they were not regulated under pool codes, Sackett led efforts to develop a new state code for spraypark design and operation. Among other requirements, the codes mandate that every New York spraypark include UV water-treatment systems. Since adoption in 2006, the codes have become a kind of model for similar regulations that are being considered or have since been adopted in other states, such as Texas.
But Sackett’s work doesn’t stop at recreational water illnesses. The standard procedures he’s created for drowning investigations have improved data collection, which has in turn strengthened lifeguard training programs and impacted pool design consideration.
Additionally, Sackett is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Swimming Pool Foundation, serving on NSPF’s Technical Advisory Committee for the Certified Public Pool Inspector Training Program, and on the American Red Cross Technical Advisory Team for the Lifeguard Management Program (2002).
“Even after 34 years, there’s still something to learn,” he says of his continued commitment to aquatics. “I like the technical aspects, and I still have a natural curiosity and drive to find ways to make things better.”