How safe are community pools? Chlorine, cleanliness, common sense help
So, just how safe are they?
A packed pool can become a soup of germs that can cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that can take weeks to shake off. While testing and disinfecting pools with chlorine are the primary weapons used to beat back the bugs, health agencies and officials also stress that personal behaviors and hygiene play a key role.
Tim Wilson, coordinator of the state Department of Environmental Services Public Pool and Spa Program, said that while recreational water illness cases have increased, New Hampshire has not seen any major outbreaks.
New Hampshire's 2009 total of all recreational water illnesses, the most recent figures available, was 318 cases.
"We test every hour on the hour," Goffstown Parks and Recreation Director Rick Wilhemi said, noting: "Every day is different."
Lifeguards at Bedford's public pool test the water every two hours. Nashua Health Officer Heidi Peek said testing increases with large crowds and hot weather.
Keene Parks and Recreation Director Andy Bohannon said state regulations require three tests a day at the city's two public pools; under certain circumstances the staff will test more often.
When it comes to keeping swimmers safe, most people put their confidence in chlorine.
"Everything is in parts per million," said Wilhemi. "As long as the chlorine is between 1.5 and four, we're good. Nothing can live in chlorine."
Chloramines can sting eyes, burn noses, trigger rashes and cause breathing trouble, especially for people with asthma, Peek said. And when chlorine reacts and becomes chloramines, it's no longer doing its job as a disinfectant.
"That's why it's so important for people to shower and pay attention to hygiene," said Peek, who added that the lifeguards at Nashua's pools do a good job of making sure everyone showers before swimming.
Bedford Health Agent Gary Pariseau admits enforcing good hygiene is an almost impossible task. There are other signs of problems that are easier to pinpoint, he said.
Another red flag: The sides and bottom of a pool should not feel slippery or slimy
Pariseau feels confident in a pool's safety as long as the chlorine and ph levels stay within the set parameters.
"That's public record and anyone can request to see that information,' he said.
Manchester's pool rules and information remind swimmers about those logs and records and encourage swimmer to ask for information. Manchester's four pools and Crystal Lake are scheduled to open today, however some hours are restricted to city residents only.
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