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
“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
Working now on a national level, Davis is familiar with many state
rules and procedures. So she understands the need for the
“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
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.”