Officials: No E. coli in city pool

Despite worrisome posts on social media, Tullahoma Parks and Recreation officials say the pool water at Splash Island is safe and does not contain E. coli. The pool posted copies of a recent water sample test results and the pool’s most recent inspection on Facebook in order to calm fears about the safety of the pool.

Despite concerns voiced on social media about the water quality of Splash Island, pool, health and water officials have stated the water at Splash Island is safe for all to enjoy.

Two women posted warnings on social media about the water at Splash Island at the end of June, telling mothers with small children to avoid the pool due to an E. coli infection both of their children came down with, allegedly after having visited the waterpark.

According to the Mayo Clinic, E. coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals. Most varieties of E. coli are harmless or cause relatively brief diarrhea. But a few particularly nasty strains can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. People can come into contact with the bacteria through infected water and food, especially raw vegetables and undercooked beef.

According to health department and city officials, the water at Splash Island tested negative for any E. coli for the month of June.

A June 26 post on the official Splash Island Tullahoma Facebook page states the pool operators were “working directly with the health department” on the issue and that “there have been no confirmed cases of Ecoli [sic] at Splash Island.”

“The pool is always operated with the proper levels of sanitizing chemicals, as confirmed by the health department,” the post reads.

Even though city officials were confident the pool water was safe, Aquatics Director J.P. Kraft, who oversees the operations of Splash Island, took three water samples to the Duck River Utility Commission (DRUC) on June 17 to have them tested for E. coli.

According to DRUC General Manager Randal Braker, all three water samples came back negative.

“No E. coli or any other bacteria were detected,” he said. “Based on our evaluation of the samples, the disinfection of the pool was correct and no water quality issues were apparent.”

He added that the pool in well maintained and safe.

“As far as I know, they are doing everything right,” he said.

Braker cautioned that DRUC has very limited interaction with Splash Island, however, and those interactions are kept to minor technical assistance on the pool’s disinfection systems. This recent testing was the only interaction the commission has had with the pool recently.

A second post from the Splash Island Tullahoma Facebook page shared a copy of the DRUC lab test results, as well as a state health department inspection report from June 13.

Both of these documents showed the pool received clean health reports and that there was no E. coli present in the water.

The post also includes a quote from the local environmental health specialist Larry Evans, acknowledging the social media fervor and corroborating the pool’s safety.

“The health department has not had any complaints about Splash Island,” the quote reads. “We have had calls about Splash Island due to a social media post. Splash Island is inspected regularly and the facility is well maintained and receives 100-percent on their scores. Additionally, Splash Island was inspected June 28, 2018, with the Regional Manager, and we found chemical levels are adequate and Splash Island is safe.”

According to Brook Mitchell, the Tennessee Health Department Public Information Officer, the local health department office has an environmental health specialist come by and check every public swimming pool “each month that they’re open.”

While the specialist doesn’t take water samples in order to test for bacteria or parasites,   the water chemistry is checked “to verify that adequate and effective sanitizer is present at the proper levels, as well as a range of safety, construction and operational items,” Mitchell said.

The local environmental health specialist visited Splash Island on June 28, Mitchell said, and reported nothing out of the ordinary; the pool was operating in compliance with all state-mandated rules and regulations.

“The sanitizer and all other inspectional items were well within range and in compliance with the rules,” she said.

Mitchell added that Splash Island even goes an extra step when operating the waterpark.

“Additionally, the pool exceeds monitoring requirements by checking sanitizer levels hourly and recording/maintaining logs of sanitizer levels,” she said.

While social media posts caused concern among parents, Mitchell said the environmental health staff at the local health department received “no complaints regarding this pool.”

Additionally, she said, “There have been no complaints about the water at Splash Island prior to June 19.”

There has never been a positive E. coli sample found in the Tullahoma water supply, Braker said.

DRUC regularly tests for E. coli and other bacteria in the Tullahoma water supply, “dozens of times … at different points throughout the water system” every day.

Because E. coli comes from the intestines of mammals, it can be spread easily when people don’t follow sanitary regulations such as showering before entering a public pool or through dirty diapers of small children, he said.

“Of course, the pool water is disinfected and filtered to destroy or remove these contaminants,” Braker said, “but it would [be] better if it never got into the water to start with.”

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.

Staff Writer

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