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Indiana State Department of Health

Environmental Public Health Home > Public Swimming Pool and Spa Program > Frequently Asked Questions - Swimming Pools Frequently Asked Questions - Swimming Pools


I live in a neighborhood that owns and maintains a private pool for use by the homeowners in the subdivision. The pool is operated and maintained by the neighborhood association. Does the pool have to meet the standards of the rule?

Yes. 410 IAC 6-2.1-17 defines a "Semi-public pool" as "any pool that is intended to be used for swimming or bathing and is operated solely for and in conjunction with:

1. hotels, motels, apartments, condominiums, bed and breakfasts, or similar lodgings;
2. camps or mobile home parks; or
3. membership clubs or associations."

I am the operator of a semi-public pool that has 2,500 square feet of surface area. Do I have to provide a lifeguard?

Yes. 410 IAC 6-2.1-35 states that "A qualified lifeguard is required for all semi-public pools with a surface area of two thousand (2,000) square feet or more. Lifeguards must be on duty at poolside at all times when the pools are open for use."

While conducting a routine pre-opening inspection of the pool, the remains of what appears to be a solid fecal accident was discovered in one of the skimmer baskets. What should I do?

The rule addresses two specific types of fecal accidents: solid and nonsolid. Specific procedures are outlined that detail appropriate steps to take for each type of incident and differ because of varying degrees of contamination. Those procedures are further based on the assumption that the accident is discovered quickly. This instance poses a unique situation that must be handled differently than specifically detailed in the rule.

A solid formed stool, discovered and removed quickly after the accident, has little time to shed significant numbers of disease producing organisms into the pool water. When the fecal material has the opportunity to remain in the pool for an extended period of time, the material will be eroded, dispersed throughout the pool and will lodge in the filter media where it will continue to shed organisms. To assure the greatest level of protection for the bather, incidents of this type should be handled as though the accident was nonsolid. The pool should be closed and the nonsolid stool procedures followed.

The pH in my pool changes drastically throughout the day. Bather load does not seem affect these wide changes. What should I do?

There are two questions to consider. One; How old are the reagents in the test kit? Reagents have a shelf life that is affected by environmental factors such as heat, light and humidity. If the reagents, or the test kit itself, are stored in an area subject to wide changes in temperature, sunlight and humidity, the shelf life will be compromised. Test kits and reagents should be stored in a cabinet where these environmental factors are more easily controlled.

The second question to ask is what is the alkalinity of the pool water? Total Alkalinity is a measure of the pH buffering capacity, or the water’s resistance to a change in pH. Maintaining proper alkalinity is important to the life expectancy of the pool, because a low total alkalinity can result in highly corrosive water that will damage metal surfaces. Total alkalinity must be at least 80 parts per million (ppm). It is generally accepted that pool water should be maintained between 100 and 150 ppm of total alkalinity.

How often should I check the chemicals in the pool?

410 IAC 6-2.1-30(o) states that pool water must be tested for the following:

1. pH and disinfectant residuals daily before the pool is open for use and at least one other time during the hours of pool use.
2. Combined chlorine at least twice a week when chlorine is used.
3. Total alkalinity at least once a week.
4. Cyanuric acid, when it is used, at least once a week.

What kinds of diseases can I get from swimming in a pool or spa that does not maintain water quality?

Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI) varies in type and severity. Gastrointestinal illnesses such as Cryprosporidium, Shigella, E. coli and Norovirus occur in pools and spas each year. Respiratory infections such as Legionella, Pontiac Fever are common. Skin, ear and eye infections caused by Pseudomonas, Staph and Bacillus are also frequently associated with pools. Additional information on RWIs can be found on CDCs web site.

How often do I have to sample the pool water?

A water sample is required each week the pool is open for use. Sampling must begin at least one week before the pool opens. Spas or hot tubs are included in this requirement.

A person with large open wounds got out of the pool and left a considerable amount of dead skin/exudate in the pool. What is the procedure for making the pool safe for other swimmers?

In accordance with the Indiana State Department of Health's Swimming Pool Rule, 410 IAC 6-2.1-36(b)(2), the pool operator should inform the person not to swim with open sores. These kinds of tissue do not present the same degree of hazard as fecal material, which is specifically addressed in the pool rule. We recommend everyone be asked to leave the pool, the dead skin be removed with a skimmer net, and pool chlorine levels be checked. If chlorine levels are OK, everyone could re-enter the pool. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommendations for Vomit and Blood Contamination of Pool Water.

Should a person who has had ostomy (colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy) surgery be allowed to swim in a public or semi public pool?

Yes. There is no reason a person who has ostomy surgery should be excluded from swimming in a public or semi public pool. The pouching system used to collect waste is designed to be leak-free and water-proof. There are no restrictions in 410 IAC 6-2.1 on swimming after having had ostomy surgery. A person planning on swimming after ostomy surgery should make sure their seal is strong and intact. If a leak should occur releasing liquid fecal matter, it should be treated as a diarrheal fecal incident by the pool staff.

How do I find the new drain cover I need to comply with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act? What do I need to know to get the right replacement?

To purchase a replacement cover that will properly fit your existing main drain system, the equipment supplier will need to know about your pool’s recirculation system and the existing main drain suction outlet. Information for your supplier includes:

1. the maximum flow rate of the pool’s recirculation system,
2. the manufacturer and model numbers of the existing recirculating pump and motor, main drain cover and sump; and,
3. the location of the main drain (on the pool bottom or sidewall).

A sketch of the existing drain sump, with dimensions that identify the overall sump size and the shortest distance between the sump outlet pipe and the underside of the existing drain cover will be useful. The measurement from sump outlet pipe to the bottom of the drain cover will be needed to select a replacement cover that meets the ASME A112.19.8-2007 standard, will handle the system recirculation flow; and will properly fit the existing main drain outlet sump.

Are indoor pools safe in a thunderstorm?

No, according to the National Lightning Safety Institute :both indoor and outdoor pools are unsafe because a strike to any part of the complex will have a significant effect on all of it.

The issue is not always the small area of the pool itself, but all of the connections with the pool at the facility. The mistake people make is remaining in the pool area with lightning nearby. Leaving the water is not the end of the storm, but the beginning of lightning safety. A flash can hit a power or phone pole outside the pool, or it can hit part of the structure itself. A cloud-to-ground flash to the pool complex can then travel easily through standing water, plumbing, wiring, fences, and phones to affect many, most, or all people at the facility.

See Lightning and Aquatics Safety at Pools. The NCAA and YMCA both have policies that mandate evacuation of indoor pools in the event of a thunderstorm. While there have not been any recorded deaths as a result of swimming indoors during a lightning storm, isn’t it best to play it safe?

Can swimming spread lice?

Data show that head lice can survive under water for several hours but are unlikely to be spread by the water in a swimming pool. Head lice have been seen to hold tightly to human hair and not let go when submerged under water. Chlorine levels found in pool water do not kill head lice.

Head lice may be spread by sharing towels or other items that have been in contact with an infested person's hair, although such spread is uncommon. Children should be taught not to share towels, hair brushes, and similar items either at poolside or in the changing room.

Swimming or washing the hair within 1-2 days after treatment with some head lice medicines might make some treatments less effective. Seek the advice of your health care provider or health department if you have questions.

For more information on lice consult the CDC web site on head lice.

Are Residential Swimming Pools regulated by the Indiana State Department of Health?

No, residential swimming pools are regulated in Chapter 42, Swimming Pools, of the 2005 Indiana Residential Code. Residential swimming pools are Class 2 structures according to IC 22-12-1-5. Enforcement of the rule is the responsibility of local units of government. The residential building code is available here.

Where can I go to get information about compliance with the new ADA requirements for my swimming pool?

New regulations regarding ADA became effective on March 15, 2011. This document will provide a brief summary of the new regulations that pertain to swimming pools (public and semi-public, waterparks, wading, spas, and all other pools). It is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a complete description of this federal law.

Can molluscum virus can be spread in swimming pools?

Parents and others often ask if molluscum virus can be spread in swimming pools. There is also concern that it can be spread by sharing swimming equipment, pool toys, or towels.

Some investigations report that spread of molluscum contagiosum is increased with swimming pool use. However, it has not been proven how or under what circumstances swimming pools might increase spread of the virus. Activities related to swimming might be the cause. For example, the virus might spread from one person to another if they share a towel or toys. More research is needed to understand if and for how long the molluscum virus can live in swimming pool water and if such water can infect swimmers.

Open sores and breaks in the skin can become infected by many different germs. Therefore, people with open sores or breaks from any cause should not go into swimming pools.

If a person has molluscum bumps, the following recommendations should be followed when swimming:

1. Cover all visible growths with watertight bandages.

2.Dispose of all used bandages at home.

3. Do not share towels, kick boards or other equipment, or toys.

For more information see the CDC web site on molluscum virus: Swimming Pools and Molluscum Contagiosum; Swimming Pools and Molluscum: Information for Parents and Swimmers; Recommendations: Patients with Molluscum Contagiosum and Swimming Pool Safety

If 911 service is available, do we have to post the numbers for Ambulance or rescue unit, Hospital, Police station, and Fire department?

It is the policy of the Indiana State Department of Health that where 911 service is available only the 911 needs to be posted. Also a phone set up to auto dial "911" when the receiver is picked up, would be acceptable.