Splash pads regulated

Recirculated water a risk for E. coli, contamination

A splash pad is essentially an elaborate backyard sprinkler, where the water shoots out in all directions from various nozzles.


Younger children like it because they can run around in it; parents who are worried about safety like it because the water never puddles much deeper than 2 inches.

But South Carolina holds these splash pads to the same standards as a public swimming pool - and with good reason.

Water in splash pads is recirculated through an underground tank as a practical way of conserving water and cutting costs.

A splash pad at North Augusta's Summerfield Park, for instance, would dump 25,000 gallons a day into the sanitary sewer if the water wasn't recycled, explained Bob Brooks, parks and recreation director in North Augusta.

"It would be a double-dip cost," he said, because the city would pay for the water and its treatment.

The danger is that if water is not properly sanitized, it can harbor dangerous bacteria. A 2010 cryptosporidium outbreak in Columbia was linked to a splash pad. Last month, four children were hospitalized in Oklahoma with symptoms of E. coli because of an improperly constructed splash pad.

Michele Hlavsa, chief of the Centers for Disease Control's Healthy Swimming Program, said she applauds South Carolina for regulating splash pads as swimming pools.

"A pool inspection program is really important," Hlavsa said.

Most germs, such as E. coli, salmonella and noro virus, will be quickly destroyed in a properly chlorinated pool. The exception is the cryptosporidium, which can survive 10 days in normal pool water.

Under South Carolina code, a splash pad operator must have a certified pool operator on staff who checks the water a minimum of three times a week. The operator must keep a log of each visit and the chemical levels at the time of the visit.

Paperwork keeps North Augusta splash pad dry
South Carolina department of health and environmental control pool standards
Healthy Swimming’s video contest
Splash pads
Healthy Swimming