As a student studying genetic counseling at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Tracynda Davis lived through what became the largest waterborne illness outbreak in U.S. history.
Cryptosporidium had contaminated the public water supply and the ensuing investigations and response ignited Davis’ interest in public health.
“That outbreak changed my whole career path. Before that, nobody had ever heard of crypto,” Davis says. Today she’s director of environmental health programs at the National Swimming Pool Foundation, coordinating and expanding environmental health programs to raise educational standards for operators and inspectors at a national level. She also provides guidance on state laws and interpretations on the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
Davis got started in the field soon after the outbreak when she left the area to obtain her master’s degree in public health. She studied at the University of South Florida under microbiologist Dr. Joan Rose, a renowned leading expert on crypto. After receiving her degree, Davis returned to her native Wisconsin and went on to run the swimming pool inspection program for the Wisconsin Department of Health. She initiated and conducted research on the sanitary conditions of waterparks, which was published in the World Health Organization’s Journal of Water and Health in May 2009. That work helped form the basis for code revisions in Wisconsin, which includes Wisconsin Dells, known as the indoor waterpark capital of the world.
With experience like that, Davis was a logical choice for the Steering Committee.
“When I was still working for Wisconsin, Centers for Disease Control officials invited me to participate in the 2005 workshop ‘Recreational Water Illness Prevention at Disinfected Swimming Venues,’ held in Atlanta,” she recalls.
Now Davis is involved on four technical committees — Disinfection and Water Quality, Regulatory Program Administration, Operator Training, and Hygiene — and as a member of the Steering Committee, which is helping establish and guide the process. She represents NSPF, and the concerns of environmental health officials.
Working now on a national level, Davis is familiar with many state rules and procedures. So she understands the need for the code.
“As a regulator and an inspector, I was a person who was closing down pools,” she says. “Most pool closings were justified; however, sometimes it was difficult to explain the rationale behind the regulations, which was frustrating.”
While she doesn’t expect the MAHC to change things overnight, Davis does believe eventually it will be seen as an influential document that will shape aquatics’ history.
“There are still some very controversial things out there, and there will be some concessions, but we’re not jumping in feet first,” Davis says. “At the end of the day, this is going to be the first complete federal guidance document — and that’s huge.”