Have you ever worked at a public pool and felt a degree of panic not knowing if your pool was in compliance with the requirements of public health code?

Or, how about trying to conduct repairs or a renovation to an existing public swimming pool only to find out it does not comply with the governing health code?

The fact is, there is no federal regulatory authority for public swimming pools. Swimming is the third most popular U.S. sport or exercise activity, with an approximate 314 million visits to recreational water venues per year.

Currently all public swimming pool codes are developed and approved by state and/or local public health officials or building departments. As a result, there are no uniform or national standards for the construction, renovation or operation of a public swimming pool or spa. Conditions that are allowed in one county may be outlawed in an adjoining county. There are some areas in the United States where there are no codes or standards for the operation of a public swimming pool at all.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has conducted several studies about the safety and reliability in the maintenance and operation of public swimming pools. In a study reported in the CDC’s May 21, 2010 MWWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) the CDC reviewed 121,020 health department public pool inspection reports from across 15 state and local agencies in 2008. Of these 121,020 inspections, 73,953 (61.1%) identified one or more code violations. 13,532 of the inspections (12.1%) resulted in immediate closures of the pool(s).

Based upon these studies the CDC concluded that a comprehensive uniform national standard for public swimming pools could help prevent disease and injuries and promote healthy recreational experiences across the United States. The concept of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) was created.

The MAHC is intended to be a user-friendly, knowledge-based, and scientifically supported uniform standard for recreational water venues that can be adopted and ratified across the U.S. The MAHC can transform varied regulations used by health and building departments across the U.S. into a uniform set of state and local codes that can help ensure the health and safety of the swimming public.

The MAHC has set up 12 technical subcommittees covering all facets of recreational water systems as they pertain to health and safety. Experts across the U.S. have been called upon to create a data-driven and knowledge based public swimming pool MAHC.

Once the MAHC has been completed it is intended to be updated every two years to allow it to respond to new science and engineering, industry developments, or new standards of practice. To make the MAHC easy to use it is configured with a two to three keyword summary in the left margins. In the far right margins a grading system denoting bases for each section of the code. The grading system is divided into three levels.

  • Grade A: Practice supported by science/research/data
  • Grade B: Widely accepted practice not supported by science/research/data
  • Grade C: Not yet an industry standard and not supported by science/research/ data

This grading is intended to allow pool operators and inspectors to understand the bases for each section of the MAHC. The MAHC also has an annex to support each section. This annex provides details, studies, and data that were used in the formation of the MAHC sections.

Once each section of the MAHC has been drafted, it is then posted on a CDC website for public review and comment. The first section of the MAHC to be drafted and posted for review is the Operator Training Section.