June 4, 2008

Swimmers Can Learn Tips to Avoid Bacteria in Pools

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- -- Kentucky public health and water quality officials are promoting healthy swimming behavior to minimize the hazards of waterborne illnesses among those who take dips in public waterways and pools.

Swimmers are reminded to avoid swimming in sections of waterways where the state Division of Water and the Division of Public Health and Protection and Safety issued warnings last year.

Advisories, reissued for this year, include some eastern Kentucky sections of the upper Cumberland River and some tributaries, a portion of the Kentucky River, and the lower Licking River.

The advisories were issued because of the continued use of some illegal, straight-pipe sewage discharges, sewer overflows, failing septic systems and other waste problems.

Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park swimming areas closed last summer during drought conditions that allowed bacterial levels to climb above recommended swimming levels. Those conditions have not recurred.

Guy Delius, acting director of DPH's Division of Public Health Protection and Safety, said swimmers should follow recommendations for use of public pools, where concentrations of people can allow bacterial problems to flare:

--Shower before swimming.

--Do not swallow pool water or allow pool water to get into your mouth.

--Do not swim if you have diarrhea.

--Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.

--Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often.

--Change children's diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside.

Waterborne illnesses are caused by microorganisms such as cryptosporidium, giardia, esherichia coli (E. coli) and shigella and are spread by swallowing water contaminated with fecal matter. E. coli is the major species in the fecal coliform group.

Because it is generally not found growing and reproducing in the environment, E. coli is considered the best indicator of fecal pollution and the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria and other microorganisms.

Chlorine kills bacteria and is the reason that most pool water is chlorinated, but disinfection takes time.

The state agencies recommend against swimming or other full-body contact with all surface waters immediately following heavy rain, especially in dense residential, urban and livestock production areas.

This recommendation is because of an increased potential for exposure to pollution from urban nonpoint source pollution, bypasses from sewage collection systems, combined sewer overflows and runoff from livestock waste.

State and local agencies continue efforts to reduce E. coli levels.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services works with local health department environmental health staff to ensure that new septic systems are properly installed.

Division of Water staff work with wastewater plant operators to ensure sewer overflows are minimized.

Both agencies routinely address straight pipe issues and are gradually reducing the number of these discharges across the state.