Credit: Gary Thill

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The particulars are different, but the story is the same. Manufacturers eager for a sale underplay, or simply don?t comprehend, the inherent dangers of the product they are selling.

Hungry for budget savings and too willing to believe a sales pitch that even a rudimentary understanding of water chemistry would discount, operators buy the product and install it at their facilities.

This scenario gets repeated nationwide, even worldwide, and the product becomes a must-have item. Time goes by and operators begin to notice that the product has problems that people are getting sick or hurt by it.

Investigation reveals the product in question was woefully misunderstood and its seeming simplicity overstated. To address the problem, operators must install costly fixes and codes must be updated. While operators, politicians and manufacturers try to figure out what to do, more and more people get sick and/or injured and the liability grows.

In essence, that is the story of sprayparks. And while the generalities are disturbing, the particulars are even more troubling, especially when it comes to the sickness they are causing and the liability they are putting on the industry. The sick number in the thousands, including several outbreaks this summer that shut down citywide aquatics facilities. The liability fallout is still unknown, but already has resulted in the first-ever class action lawsuit in aquatics history.

How did we get here? Again?

What manufacturer really believed these amenities were low maintenance and easy to operate? And what operator couldn?t see that an aquatic play element that attracts youths and toddlers, yet has a higher bather load than most kiddie pools, would lead to trouble?

To be fair, it may be the clarity of hindsight that makes it all so obvious now.

But I have to wonder.

Shouldn?t someone have guessed that turnover rates designed for large pools and, by all accounts, out of date and out of touch to begin with, would not work with these new aquatic elements? Shouldn?t someone have seen that the way spray features look and act like fountains, the way children can interact with bubblers would, at best, lead to water being swallowed and, at worst, make kids think they could drink the water? At the very least, shouldn?t someone have realized these specialized features would need specialized water-treatment systems?

No one did. And if I sound bitter about the whole thing, it?s because I realize that we Aquatics International didn?t either.

I personally edited at least two articles that perpetuated the misperception that these amenities are easy to operate. We are trying to make amends for that oversight in this issue with our special report. It details the true recreational water illness danger that sprayparks represent. It explains why they are especially dangerous and what operators must do to mitigate the risk. It is an article every operator should read.

I just wish we had written it years ago. I wish this time the industry was preventing a problem rather than reacting to it. I wish we didn?t have to tell the same old story. Again.