Key messages

  • All aquatic facilities should have risk management policies that outline the treatment processes for faeces, blood and vomit in and around the pool.
  • Different treatments exist for different types of accidents.
  • Contaminated surfaces should be disinfected.

Both solid and liquid faecal incidents (diarrhoea) can contain viruses, bacteria and parasites that may cause serious illness among aquatic facility patrons. Diarrhoea is more likely to contain the chlorine-resistant parasite Cryptosporidium and require additional corrective actions (hyperchlorination).

Aquatic facilities should incorporate these recommendations into their faecal incident response policy. All staff must be aware of this policy and be trained in its implementation.

For further information, contact the Water Unit on 1300 761 874 or email water@dhhs.vic.gov.au.

Solid faeces

  1. Close the affected pool to patrons. Pools that share the same filtration system will also need to be closed.
  2. Remove as much of the faecal matter as possible (for example, using a scoop or bucket) and dispose of it in a sanitary manner. Clean and disinfect the items used to remove the faecal matter. Vacuuming faecal matter from the water is not recommended.
  3. Raise the free chlorine concentration to achieve a CT (concentration × time) of 50 mg-min/L and maintain the pH at 7.5 or lower. This can be achieved by maintaining a free chlorine concentration of 2.0 mg/L for at least 25 minutes, or a higher concentration for a shorter time period.1
  4. Confirm the filtration and coagulation system is operating effectively while maintaining the required free chlorine and pH concentration.
  5. Allow patrons to return to the pool only after the required disinfection time has elapsed and the free chlorine and pH levels are within the limits specified in the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009.
  6. Record the details of the incident and all corrective actions taken.

Liquid faeces

  1. Close the affected pool to patrons. Pools that share the same filtration system will also need to be closed.
  2. Remove as much of the faecal matter from the water as possible (for example, using a scoop or bucket) and dispose of in a sanitary manner. Clean and disinfect the items used to remove the faecal matter. Vacuuming faecal matter from the water is not recommended.
  3. Hyperchlorinate the pool by raising the free chlorine concentration to achieve a CT (concentration × time) of 15,300 mg-min/L and maintain the pH at 7.5 or lower. This can be achieved by maintaining a free chlorine concentration of 20.0 mg/L for 12.75 hours, or a higher concentration for a shorter time period.2
  4. Confirm the filtration and coagulation system is operating effectively while maintaining the required free chlorine and pH concentration.
  5. Backwash the filter directly to waste. Do not return the backwash through the filter.
  6. Allow patrons to return to the pool only after the required time has elapsed and the free chlorine and pH levels are within the limits as specified in the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009.
  7. Record the details of the incident and all corrective actions taken.

Surface contamination with blood, vomit or faeces

  1. Do not wash contaminants into the pool circulation system.
  2. Restrict access to the affected area until the cleaning and disinfection process has been completed.
  3. Wear disposable gloves to prevent contamination of the hands.
  4. Remove as much of the contaminant as possible using a disposable absorbent material (such as paper towel) and clean the area with a detergent.
  5. Pour a fresh 1:10 dilution of household bleach over the affected area and leave for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove any excess bleach solution using a disposable absorbent material (such as paper towel).
  7. Bag and dispose of all soiled materials into general waste.

1. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Disinfection profiling and benchmarking guidance manual. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water; 1999.

2. Shields JM, Hill VR, Arrowood MJ, Beach MJ. Inactivation of Cryptosporidium parvum under chlorinated recreational water conditions. Journal of water and health. 2008;6(4):513-20.