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New signs target 'code brown' incidents at the pool

  • Belden Turberville, 3, of Santa Rosa, jumps to her mother Hanna at the Finley Swim Center in Santa Rosa on Monday, July 15, 2013.

    (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

When the lifeguard at the Finley Aquatic Center ordered everyone out of the pool Monday afternoon, Hanna Turbeville, along with many other parents, naturally assumed it was a "code brown" incident — the term used by parents and lifeguards alike for poop in the pool.

Once the Santa Rosa mom had shepherded her kids out of the water, she and others learned that a small child had actually vomited in the pool. Even so, a cleaning crew was dispatched and water testing soon followed.

With the summer season in full swing, potty accidents are once again a major concern among pool operators and, of course, swimmers.

New Swimming Pool Rules

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This year, pool operators are posting new rules designed to keep swimmers healthy. The warning signs, required by a state law, order swimmers to stay out of the water if they currently have diarrhea or have experienced a bout within the last two weeks.

"That's a good rule," said Turbeville. "We definitely don't want any 'code browns.'"

It may seem like a no-brainer, but public health officials say there's a very good reason for the new signs.

The most common illness associated with recreational water is diarrhea, and a common cause of that is cryptosporidium, a parasite that can live in chlorinated water for days before it finally succumbs to the disinfectant. Local health officials said a person could be over their bout with diarrhea and still be "shedding" the parasite.

"For crypto, it's known that people can continue to shed the organism for up to two weeks," said Dr. Karen Holbrook, Sonoma County's deputy public health officer.

The new pool signs, which were mandated last September, are part of a number of recent revisions to the California Building Code that apply to public pool health and safety. These include such pool construction issues such as drain sizes and the steepness of pool sides.

But with the summer months here, its the diarrhea signs that are getting most of the attention.


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