CDC Issues New Model Aquatic Health Code

Commercial Aquatics Facility

The second edition of the Model Aquatic Health Code has been released, marking changes from minor to substantial, and raising at least one major question that will be explored for the next revision.

This marks the first revision of the landmark federal model code for commercial aquatics facilities. For this code, a committee called the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC) generates and evaluates dozens of change requests and determines which ones it will recommend to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency charged with writing and administering the language. The CDC then chooses which change requests it approves and changes the code based on that. (While the MAHC is federally based, it is a model code, meaning it does not take effect unless a state or municipal entity chooses to adopt it.)

The MAHC was written as a comprehensive code, covering the gamut from design to water treatment to lifeguard training. The changes showed this diversity.

Some alterations increased the amount of information that must be explored and provided as part of the design process, to ensure that a facility is built to its stated purpose. For instance, a zoning plan for positioning lifeguards must be included in the plans, showing features and design characteristics that could affect the ability to monitor users. This is meant to avoid situations where operators plan to use a certain number of lifeguards , but then find they need more after construction. In such cases, operators sometimes stick to the lower staffing plans, causing a risk to users, said CMAHC Executive Director Douglas Sackett.

“That’s just an example of what can go wrong and what has gone wrong in the past,” he said. “So what we’re asking for now in the design is to lay out those zones, so they have to consult with a water-safety expert or the owner … so you know upfront what you’re looking at and whether there are problems, and then everybody’s on board instead of having quite a rude awakening…”

Along a similar line, designers must consult with their clients to determine in detail how the facilities will be used and what temperature the water will be to accurately estimate the needs of ventilation systems. Plans must indicate air handling needs and information such as whether there will be moving water like waterfeatures and spa jets, and what the typical temperatures will be. “If they design it for one use, but then it’s built and operated differently, the air handling system may not be able to handle it, and the humidity could be problematic,” Sackett said.

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