Public Swimming Pools Fecal Accident Procedures

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Because fecal matter can contain illnesses such as E. coli and Cryptosporidium which cause serious illnesses, pool are required to have specific procedures set in place for handling a fecal accident. The procedures are used to keep pool patrons as safe as possible while also minimising the pool closure times. According to the Center for Disease Control, understanding the safety procedures listed below can help prevent recreational water illnesses such as E. coli, Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

Rating an Incident

The two main types of fecal incidents need to be treated at different intensities. A diarrhoea fecal incident holds a higher risk of containing the E. coli, Hepatitis A, Giardia or Crypto germs and, therefore, hold an increased risk for recreational water illnesses and higher pool closure times.

Formed stool fecal incidents have less probability of containing the Giardia or Crypto germs. The E. coli and Hepatitis A germs can be cleared from a pool much quicker with minimum exposure to chlorine. Formed stool do not release germs as easily into the pool and require different pool closure procedures than a diarrhoea fecal incident.

When a fecal incident is discovered by staff an announcement should be made to pool patrons. An initial pool announcement asking patrons to exit the pool is all that is necessary initially. Once the pool closure time has been established a second announcement is made to report the length of the pool closure.

Pool Closure

This is the first step in any fecal incident. Immediate closure of the pool gives pool staff the necessary time to assess the situation and determine which steps they will take next. Pool closure times will vary based on the type of fecal incident and the amount of chlorine added to the pool in response to the fecal incident.

Fecal Removal

It is not recommended to use a pool vacuum for fecal removal. Fecal matter can get caught in the pool vacuum system causing an ongoing health hazard. Instead, use a net or bucket to remove the fecal matter. After the faeces has been removed, return the net or bucket to the pool so it can be disinfected with the pool.


The level of disinfection needed will determine how long the pool will remain closed. The goal in a formed fecal incident is to raise the free chlorine levels to 2 particles per million (ppm) and have the pool PH at 7.5 or less. These levels have to be achieved and maintained for at least 25 minutes before the pool can be reopened to patrons.

In a diarrhoea fecal incident the free chlorine concentration needs to be raised to 20 ppm and the pool PH should be less than 7.5 for at least 12.75 hours. This means most pools will have to close for an entire day to ensure the safety of their pool patrons.

The CDC does provide quicker closure times if the ppm of free chlorine is raised. In a formed stool incident you can raise the free chlorine level to 3ppm to reduce the disinfection time to 19 minutes. In a diarrheal fecal incident you can raise the free chlorine level to 40ppm and reduce the disinfection time to 6.5 hours.

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