Contamination closes Columbia pools 9 times over past three weeks Human waste found, prompting shutdowns


Columbia's much-beloved community pools are becoming communal toilets, as nine incidents in the last three weeks have temporarily shut down four pools.

Although Columbia Association officials say every summer there are occasional accidents -- usually by infants or toddlers -- this year is unusual.

"We are experiencing what we think is an excessive [number] of fecal accidents," said John Herdson, aquatics director for the association, which runs the community's 23 outdoor pools. "We've had occasional accidents, but this many is an abnormality." The River Hill pool was closed five times in the last three weeks after fecal matter was found. Last week, Clary's Forest pool was closed twice and one in Clemens Crossing was shut down once in similar incidents.

This week, the Hawthorn pool was closed after feces were found.

None of the pools was closed for more than a day, but with a heat wave sweeping the area, that's quite inconvenient, association officials say.

Howard County health officials say the association is prompt in following the recommended procedures to evacuate the pool, remove the fecal matter, vacuum the pool and add more chlorine to kill any bacteria.

Last month, 26 children contracted an E. coli infection after swimming in a kiddie pool at an Atlanta water park. It was the nation's first reported incidence of E. coli contamination in a chlorinated pool. A 2-year-old girl who swam in the pool died Wednesday after becoming infected with the bacteria.

Columbia Association officials say they will distribute fliers this weekend, reminding parents to take their children to the bathrooms before entering the pool and to keep rubber pants on small infants while they are swimming.

"We're reminding kids that anytime they feel the need to go, get out and use the bathroom, not the pool," Herdson said.

Pub Date: 7/24/98

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