As sprayparks — and awareness of their potential for recreational water illness — become more prevalent, more and more states are enacting tougher regulations specifically aimed at the facilities.
New regulations became effective in Ohio on April 1. New York and Texas already include spraypark-specific aquatic codes, and Kentucky and California may be the next states to adopt updated pool codes that include new rules for sprayparks. Experts say others could follow once the national Model Aquatic Health Code is adopted.
In Ohio, sprayparks designed with recirculating systems now are subject to the same water treatment requirements as pools, according to Mary Clifton, recreation programs administrator at the Ohio Department of Health. In addition, new spraypark projects must undergo a plan review.
The process of revising Ohio’s codes was started in 2008, so operators have been anticipating the changes, according to Fred Hahn, director of parks and open space for the city of Dublin, Ohio, which operates three sprayparks. As experienced in many communities, the Dublin sprayparks have been growing in popularity, and it was clear to operators that the regulations are needed. But for communities facing tight budgets, meeting some of the new requirements could be a challenge, added Joe Fabick, Dublin’s recreation administrator.
Sprayparks also are popular in California, where several proposed changes to the pool code currently are under consideration. These changes include new standards for waterpark facilities and expanding the section on signage to better warn the public not to drink spraypark water.
Recirculation and water treatment systems must meet the requirements of NSF/ANSI Standard 50, which became effective in August 2010.
“The purpose of the proposed regulations is to establish statewide safety requirements for California spraygrounds and waterparks by updating existing public pool standards to reflect current health and safety practices, industry standards and public pool operations,” said Matt Conens, spokesman for the California Department of Public Health Office of Public Affairs. “Because they are a recent addition to the recreational scene, the state does not have specific regulations to reduce the public health risks associated with their unique features. ”
Efforts to update the pool codes also are under way in Kentucky.
“We have a code that is about 25 years old,” said Russell Sitter, who owns the Lexington design firm The Fountaineer. “As new technologies and construction techniques have come up, those enforcing the code had to start making arbitrary decisions as to what to allow. ... That’s caused a lot of headaches.”
Sitter has helped spearhead a campaign to overhaul the code, and gained the support of Kentucky state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R). She sponsored a 2009 bill calling for revisions, but it went nowhere because health officials promised to make the revisions without legislation, according to Sitter. So far that hasn’t happened.
Progress is currently at a standstill, Sitter added, because “there’s a political tug of war between the Cabinet for Health Services, which wants to do minimal edits to an old code, and people like me in the industry who think that more than minimal edits are required — like a whole rewrite.”
Rewriting codes takes time and the Model Aquatic Health Code is expected to be one tool that states such as California and Kentucky will be able to use to make updates. The MAHC project was spearheaded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create more uniform pool operation guidelines. It was supported by initial grant funding from the National Swimming Pool Foundation and is nearing completion.
“Health departments do realize the differences and unique challenges [with sprayparks],” said Tracynda Davis, environmental health program director at the National Swimming Pool Foundation in Colorado Springs Colo. “Many are eagerly awaiting the MAHC module that addresses sprayground requirements.”