The Problem of Poop in the Pool

Cryptosporidium and norovirus continue to be problems in public swimming pools, but many other kinds of illnesses can also be contracted from contaminated pool water. Including giardia, E. coli, and Shigella; collectively, all these diseases are known as recreational water illnesses (RWIs).  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines RWIs as illnesses that are spread by swallowing, breathing, or having contact with contaminated water from swimming pools, spas, lakes, rivers, or oceans.  The main culprit for RWIs is poop in the pool.

Poop needs to be removed as soon as it’s spotted in the pool.  If it’s formed stool, swimmers should exit the pool and the poop must be fished out of the pool without breaking it apart.  Breaking the stool apart will release any harmful bacteria within it.  Bacteria can still leech out of formed stool, but the sooner it’s removed the less likely that bacteria will escape.  The pool must be properly treated before any swimmers can be allowed back into the pool.  The CDC recommends raising the chlorine content of the water to 2.0 ppm (parts per million) for 30 minutes.

Diarrhea is a much more severe problem.  Diarrheal accidents are much more likely than formed stool to contain germs.  In this case, swimmers must exit the pool while the pool is treated.  As much as possible of the fecal matter should be removed using a net or scoop.  The chlorine will need to be raised to 20 ppm for 13 hours or 10 ppm for 26 hours.  In most cases of diarrhea, the pool must be closed for an extended period of time.

Of course poop in the pool is a problem in private pools as well as commercial pools.  Parents soon forget that their kiddie pool in the backyard must be treated in a similar manner when there is poop in the pool.  In the case of small pools in the backyards, most do not have filters, so the entire pool must be emptied and scrubbed out with a strong bleach detergent.

Poop in the pool is a major health hazard.  Luckily there are proven ways for pool managers to combat RWIs.  Preventative measures include asking people suffering from diarrhea or infants with diapers to refrain from using the pool.  Have a safe summer and help keep poop out of the pool.