The proposed MAHC is not the first attempt to propose a uniform aquatic health code. The credit for that goes to the American Public Health Association (APHA) which 100 years ago recognized the dangers of improperly-maintained aquatic facilities and formed a committee in 1918 to that for the next 66 years issued eleven so-called “Swimming Pools and Other Public Bathing Places Standards For Design, Construction, Equipment And Operation” recommended ordinances and regulations. But for a variety of reasons none of these recommendations were adopted, at least not formally or completely. The main one is that neither the APHA, the federal government nor any of the individual states have adequate power to enforce health and safety rules, nor the resources to do even if they had that power.
The APHA was founded in 1872 at a time when scientific advances were helping to reveal the causes of communicable diseases. These discoveries laid the foundation for the public health profession and for the infrastructure to support its work. From its inception, the APHA was dedicated to improving the health of all residents of the United States. The APHA’s founders recognized that two of the Association’s most important functions were advocacy for adoption by the government of the most current scientific advances relevant to public health, and public education on how to improve community health. Along with these efforts, APHA has also campaigned for the development of well- organized health departments at both the federal and the local level. However it or for that matter any and every private, quasi-public or even public agency has very limited powers, which are for all intense and purpose are restricted to just making recommendations. They can study health problems all they want to, but to formulate and execute plans in the form of laws, ordinances and regulations they have very limited and in some case no enforcement authority.
There has long been an ongoing problem since the country was born regarding what is referred to as “conflicts of laws.” While the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land, it is not all- inclusive and there is always a battle between the federal government and the states as to who has the power to protect the people. So-called states’ rights are always an issue. This is particularly one of the reasons why no national or even uniform aquatic health code has ever been adopted, or at least enforced.
The right of states to make laws governing health, safety, welfare, and morals is derived from the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution which states:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
This is generally referred to as “police power,” which does not specifically refer to the power to create police forces. It has been held to authorize state legislative bodies to exercise their police power by enacting statutes, and also delegate much of this police power to counties, cities, towns, villages, and large boroughs within the state. The CDC estimates that there are over 3200 state and local health agencies responsible for adopting and enforcing ordinances and regulations relating to aquatic environments. They do so because the Constitution has no specific provisions relating to health and safety laws.
The APHA has tried to develop a uniform aquatic health code, or what it referred to for years as referenced above, “and published short reports annually from 1920 through 1925 that it simply referred to as “Report Of The Committee On Bathing Places.” and finally in 1926 it published in its journal its first comprehensive report it called “Standards For Design, Construction, Equipment And Operation for Swimming Pools And Other Public Bathing Places.” Twelve others were published through 1981, however its lack of authority to enforce them is implied by the changing description of what was limited to their recommendations or suggestions and the expressed purposes in issuing them. In 1957, it referred to its report as “Recommended Practice for Design, Equipment and Operation of Swimming Pools and Other Public Bathing Places.” In the most comprehensive one since 1926 and until it stopped issuing them in 1981, it referred in 1964 to its report as “Suggested Ordinance and Regulations Covering Public Swimming Pools” and in 1970 one for “Private Swimming Pools.” Its last report in 1981 was called “Public Swimming Pools: Recommended Regulations for Design and Construction, Operation and Maintenance.”
In 1926 appears the committee believed its standards would be adopted by the empowered jurisdictions, although who they were never mentioned in the report.
In 1964 the boldest move of all took place as it presented its recommendations in the form of proposed ordinances and regulations and in the Forward concluded:
“State and local governments who desire to enact this Suggested Ordinance and Regulations Covering Public Swimming Pools a useful resource.”
In 1912, ironically the same year when the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued the first patent for a swimming pool cleaner, the Sanitary Engineering Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA) convened in New York City to lay the groundwork for the first recommended pool and spa regulations. As reported in the American Journal of Public health in April 1912 a meeting was held in Havana the previous December and at the New York meeting among the subjects that the committee was to be studying was “Hygiene of swimming pools.”
Six years later, a committee on swimming pools was appointed at the APHA’s annual meeting in Chicago and in 1920 a similar committee was appointed at the meeting in Washington, D.C. In 1921 and periodically over the next seven decades until the work of the APHA on this subject matter was through a series of division and consolidation diverted elsewhere its committees and joint committees with other health-orientated public and quasi-public organizations issued proposed ordinances and regulations in the form of unenforceable recommendations. Despite their intended and published goals, none became the law of the land, uniform, much less national.
In 1921 the first report of the Committee of Sanitary Engineers followed an attempt “to obtain information as to the extent and prevalence of diseases which may be conveyed by means of bathing places from a large number of physicians whom we believe may be in a position to furnish information of value.” 2,000 copies of a questionnaire were sent out and replies came from 41 states and the territory of Hawaii. It noted that Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Florida, Idaho, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia and California which was “the pioneer state in this work, having legislated on it during 1917.
None of the proposed Standards included more than a passing reference of the need to properly clean a pool. A few, but curiously not all of these recommended ordinances and regulations related to the use of a vacuum, although the first that included any specificity in 1923 at least required a certain level of clarity.
The 1921 report, barely a few pages in length made this reference to the need to clean the pool.
“Pool cleaning is done by completely emptying the pool an average of twice weekly and scrubbing with stiff brushes and soap. Hose flushing follows the scrubbing. After the flushing outlet is opened, the well turned on and clean water allowed to water over the floor of the drains, etc…”
It did not include any requirement for vacuuming or any other cleaning apparatuses.
The 1923 report, slightly longer, but still very brief stated:
“Section 3. Clearness: At all times when the pool is in use the water shall be sufficiently clear to permit a black disk six inches in diameter on a white filed, placed on the bottom of the pool at the deepest point, to be clearly visible from both sides of the pool when the water is quiet.’
It further stated:
“No swimming pool shall be opened to the use of bathers on any day until all visible dirt (not stains) on the bottom of the pool and any visible scum or floating matter on the surface has been removed. Scum and floating matters may be infectious material and should always be removed as soon as possible after they are observed.
Therefore, in 1921 it was recognized that infectious material, namely pathogens collect in the pool and should be removed.
It was not until 1926 twelve years after the organization recognized the need to address swimming pool “hygiene” and eight years after the committee was organized that the first true report was issued and later published in the Journal of the American Public Health Association. This report, authored by Stephen DeM. Gage, its Chairman included the referenced Gage and Bidwell’s Laws of Dilution, or specifically as referenced in the report “law of purification by consecution dilution as applied to recirculation and flowing through pools.” It stated an abstract was in preparation, but there is no generally-known evidence it was ever completed. This principle is emblematic of the lack of attention and detail the swimming pool, and in fact the entire health care industry has always dealt with the acknowledged need to give attention to the aquatic health environment, shoddy and incomplete. Even today, 86 years later it is quoted, often misquoted and paraphrased even today although virtually all informed observers.
As will be demonstrated below these periodic recommendations were largely lost in the maze of bureaucratic red tape, politics and continuous battle for power between the states and the federal government. Of all of its reports from 1920 through 1981 the first major report by the APHA in 1926, written in narrative form as were the succeeding nine ones though 1957 the committee included the detailed provisions relating to pool cleaning, vacuuming and vacuums:
“E. Suction Cleaner: In the opinion of the committee the only satisfactory method of removing the dirt, hair, etc., settling on the bottom of a pool is by means of a suction cleaner. As such cleaners are commonly operated by the circulation pumps; they may be classed as an adjunct to the recirculation system. When a suction cleaner is to be operated by the recirculation pump, a gate with graduated stem or other registering device should be provided for throttling the flow from the pool outlet to permit the pump to operate at maximum efficiency when the suction cleaner is in use. Fixed pipe connections for attachment of suction cleaner to pump suction should be of ample size to reduce friction to a minimum
and the cleaner and all removable connections should be designed to provide a maximum velocity at the suction nozzle. “
“XXVI Cleaning Pool
- Visible dirt on the bottom of a swimming pool shall not be permitted to remain more than 24
- Any visible scum or floating material on the surface of a pool shat be removed within 24 hours by flushing or other effective means”
The periodic reports that followed simply cut and pasted the language of the 1926 report. In the 1957 report, the following language was included:
In the opinion of the committee a satisfactory method of removing the dirt, hair, etc., settling on the bottom of a pool is by means of a suction cleaner. With careful operation a brush may also be used successfully although the committee recommends the provision of a suction cleaner. As suction cleaners are commonly operated by the circulation pumps, they may be classed as an adjunct to the recirculation system. When a suction cleaner is to be operated by the recirculation pump, a gate with graduated stem or other registering device should be provided for throttling the flow from the pool outlet to permit the pump to operate at maximum efficiency when the suction cleaner is in use. Fixed pipe connections at least 8 inches below the water surface for attachment of suction cleaner to pump suction should be of ample size to reduce friction to a minimum, and the cleaner and all removable connections should be designed to provide a maximum velocity at the suction nozzle. Some use of portable suction cleaners has been reported.”
This is almost shamefully lifted verbatim from the language of the 1926 report issued 31 years earlier in the author’s History of Pool Cleaning it is demonstrated that numerous patents were issued for swimming pool cleaners in that interim period and in fact in 1926 there were only two or three patents issued for pool cleaners. Thus the committee ignored any advanced in cleaning equipment technology.
In 1959 the committee decided not to use the narrative report form but concentrate upon the development of three model codes, one concerning public swimming pools, another covering private residential-type pools and a third involving nature bathing areas. It took five years when in 1964 the first report, that relating to public pools was issued, and six years later a very brief one was issued related to private residential pools.
The 1964 report by its own words was intended to be “prototype legislation applicable for use by both state and local governments establishing minimum standards for swimming pools.” As mentioned above, it went on in its Forward to state his ordinance and these regulations, if enacted by a governmental jurisdiction, should serve to minimize the spread of infections, to reduce injuries
through elimination of hazards, and to promote public swimming pools as attractive and safe places for enjoyment, recreation, and physical fitness.
There does not seem to be any generally-known evidence that it ever got close to accomplishing its goal, except possibly in snippets by the country’s reputed 3200+ local and state health agencies.
The 1964 report included the following language:
“A vacuum-cleaning system shall be provided. When an integral part of the recirculation system, sufficient connections shall be located in the walls of the swimming pool, at least eight inches below the water line.
A vacuum-cleaning system shall be provided. When an integral part of the recirculation system, sufficient connections shall be located in the walls of the swimming pool, at least eight inches below the water line” and,
“Cleaning Swimming Pools
Visible dirt on the bottom of the swimming pool shall be removed every 24 hours or more frequently as required. Visible scum or floating matter on the swimming pool surface shall be removed within 24 hours by flushing or other effective means.”
As stated above, in 1970 the committee issued another report, still labeling them as “desirable and necessary suggested legislation to provide a uniform basis for control of the design and construction private Residential Swimming Pools.” Perhaps with no basis in fact the committee excused this very short report by contending “The Joint Committee felt most government agencies do not have the authority to enforce operation and maintenance standards for private swimming pools and, of those that have the necessary legal power to do so, only a few have the resources to conduct programs of compliance.” Given the above-referenced Police Powers Clause, namely the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution which the courts have interpreted as giving the states the authority to police safety, health, welfare, and morals of its citizenry, one can only wonder why the committee came to such an unsubstantiated conclusion. In later years the enactment of fencing, alarms, diving boards and other health and safety regulations applying to private residential pools showed otherwise. However, there is no evidence any governmental or quasi-governmental agency has made any attempt to even proposed standards for private residential pools, which according to the pool industry consultants PK data, coincidentally located just as the CDC is in Atlanta outnumber public or commercial pools in this country about 20 to 1.
The last public recommendations were in 1981, which by then appeared to be nothing more than a last ditch attempt to go through the motions of the failed original intentions of the first committee. Once again, by 1957 the label “Standards” was long abandoned, replaced by either “Suggestions, or “Recommended Regulations.” It was apparent by 1981 that the committee was far less forceful or
optimistic that whatever they published would be the basis for legislation but simply “recommended regulations.” The report stated regarding the recommendations that “they should not be considered to be the ‘final” word and only encouraged “Regulatory agencies wishing to enact more stringent minimum standards to achieve an even higher level of health protection, safety and well-being,” “to do so.”
69 years after the APHA addressed the issue of pool hygiene, 63 years after the committee was organized and 55 years after the first report, the only reference to cleaning or vacuuming was:
“A vacuum cleaning system shall be provided to remove debris and foreign material which settles to the bottom of the swimming pool. When it is an integral part of the circulation system, a sufficient number of connections shall be located in the walls of the swimming pool, at least 8 in (20.3 cm) but not more than 12 in (30.5 cm) below the water line.”
By then the CDC was founded (in 1946), followed by the Cabinet-level Department of Health, Education and Welfare (in 1953), now the Department of Health, and Human Services and its 11 operating divisions, the National Health Service Corps (in 1977) and along the way a variety of private and non- profit aquatic organizations such as the National Spa and Pool Association (in 1956), now the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals the National Swimming Pool Foundation (in 1965).
Testament to this failed effort was the plan adopted in 2007 to develop the MAHC following the CDC’s 2005 workshop on recreational water illnesses. It is almost mind-boggling to realize that a full century after the groundwork was laid for the government intervention in the growing health concerns for the dangers for unmonitored aquatic environments, there still remains no uniform pool and spa health and safety code.
As will be demonstrated here at best all attempts to propose legislation were limited to a bare bones provisions that all public pools include a vacuum system. None of the reports and recommendations added any details regardless of the fact after the committee first met in 1918 that there were thousands, probably tens of thousands of patents and innovations in the industry over the succeeding ninety-one years in equipment to adequately and properly clean a pool and spa.
The National Swimming Pool Foundation includes links to the pool and bathing codes of every state. Some states include regulations and ordinances relating to pools in its building, health and safety, bathers and pool codes. The author has done his own research and on a state-by-state basis has scrutinized each and every state code and a myriad of local ones. Most have no rules relating to cleaning, much less vacuuming and cleaning or vacuuming equipment.
Among the states and jurisdictions that have codified the requirement of inclusion of an independent vacuum cleaner are these:
Alabama (Jefferson County Board of Health, Rules and Regulations Governing Design, Construction and Operation of Public Swimming Pools and Spas):
“The vacuum cleaning system, including suction head and hose, shall be such that the total suction head loss will not exceed 15 feet of water at a flow of 4 gpm per lineal inch of suction cleaner head.”
2010 Title 24, Part 2, Vol. 2 California Building Code. Section 3140B, Cleaning Systems:
“A vacuum cleaning system shall be available which is capable of removing sediment from all parts of the pool floor. A cleaning system using potable water shall be provided with an approved backflow protection device as required by the California Department of Public Health under Sections 7601 to
7605, Article 2, Title 17, California Code of Regulations:
‘No cleaning system shall operate in the pool when the pool is open or available for use by pool users. Built-in vacuum suction lines shall not be installed in the pool.”
Florida Department of Health section 64E-9.007 Recirculation and Treatment System Requirements
“(12) Cleaning system – A portable or plumbed in vacuum cleaning system shall be provided. All vacuum pumps shall be equipped with hair and lint strainers. Recirculation or separate vacuum pumps shall not be used for vacuuming purposes when in excess of 3 horsepower. When the system is plumbed in, the vacuum fittings shall be located to allow cleaning the pool with a 50 foot maximum length of hose. Vacuum fittings shall be mounted no more than 15 inches below the water level, flush with the pool walls, and shall be provided with a spring loaded safety cover which shall be in place at all times. Bag type cleaners which operate as ejectors on potable water supply pressure must be protected by a vacuum breaker. Cleaning devices shall not be used while the pool is open to bathers.”
Delaware Health and Social Services Division of Public Health, Section 26.407 Vacuuming.
‘All pools shall have the capability of vacuuming the bottom either through a skimmer, a separate vacuum fitting or a portable vacuum system. If a portable vacuum system must be used, it shall be stored on-site when the pool is open. Vacuuming through a portable vacuum system that is connected to the potable water supply shall be prohibited.”
Michigan Public Health Code, Act 368
“Rule 63. A swimming pool owner shall provide a vacuum cleaning system that is capable of cleaning the swimming pool.”
(Nevada) NAC 444.174 Vacuum cleaners. (NRS 439.200, 444.070) [Bd. of Health, Public Bathing Places Reg. Art. 28, eff. 5-21-74]—(NAC A 11-1-88)
“1. A vacuum cleaning system is required at each public bathing or swimming facility having a pool. It must be either a portable type or an integral part of the recirculation system.
- There must be sufficient suction and capacity to remove all normal accumulations from the floor of the pool
- If the vacuum cleaner is an integral part of the recirculation system, sufficient connections must be located in the walls of the pool, at least 8 inches (20 centimeters) below the water The vacuum cleaner may be connected to the skimmers
- Water vacuumed from outdoor pools and from pools with considerable sediment must be discharged to
- Any visible dirt on the bottom or sides of the pool, and any visible scum or floating matter on the surface of the pool must be removed before the pool is used.
Rules and Regulations for Licensing Swimming and Wading Pools, Hot Tubs and Spas [R23-22-SWI/H&S]
State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation Department of Health 8.17.1
‘Provision shall be made for vacuum cleaning the bottom of the swimming pool. The suction from the recirculation pumps and sidewall vacuum or skimmer fittings may be utilized for this purpose.”
Utah Administrative Code, R392-302-28. Cleaning Pools.
“(1) The operator shall clean the bottom of the pool as often as needed to keep the pool free of visible dirt.
(2) The operator shall clean the surface of the pool as often as needed to keep the pool free of visible scum or floating matter.”
If the MAHC is to establish truly effective and credible guidelines for all the 3200+ state and local agencies that codify and enforce pool health, safety and operations in rules and regulations in general, it must not fall short of existing laws currently in force.
There must be uniform guidelines for the methodology and equipment relating to cleaning, brushing and vacuuming and the equipment a swimming pool.
The CPS has been actively working with experts in the field to help develop pool cleaners and vacuums that will remove microscopic pathogens, most notably Cryptosporidium. While doing so poses a difficult challenge given smaller pore filter technology is such that water flow is impeded to almost zero, the CPS is calling on the industry and scientists to work together and resolve this problem.