In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the first edition of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), a free, science-based resource to help states and localities make swimming and other water activities healthier and safer (Figure 1). MAHC guidelines address the design, construction, operation, maintenance, policies, and management of public aquatic facilities. States and localities can use it to create or update existing pool codes to reduce risk for drowning, waterborne illness outbreaks, and injuries from pool chemicals.
Every state and local jurisdiction is different, so a "one size fits all" approach will not work for everyone. The MAHC is a comprehensive guideline, but it can be easily adapted to fit the needs of various jurisdictions. Health departments interested in MAHC adoption can adopt the whole guidance or choose parts to fill the gaps in their state or local codes. New Mexico and Florida took different approaches to using the MAHC to strengthen aquatic safety and health.
All-Inclusive: How New Mexico Adopted the Entire MAHC
How Long Did MAHC Adoption Take?
In September 2013, the New Mexico Aquatics Program started reviewing the state aquatics code to update its Public Aquatics Program regulations. This time consuming process involved getting our aquatics team together multiple times for meetings and following the state procedural timelines for changing the regulations (Figure 2). Scheduling meetings with staff and interested inspectors was challenging for various reasons, including conflicting work schedules, time constraints, and distance from meetings. The newly adopted MAHC guidelines took effect in August 2016 after nearly three years of work.
What Was the Biggest Challenge to Adoption?
One of the most challenging aspects of the process was helping aquatic facilities understand that chapter 4 of the MAHC (Design & Construction) does not apply to existing facilities, except for the following items:
* diaper changing stations at all facilities that allow diaper age children in pool enclosure,
* automatic controllers within one year of adoption (we changed it to two years to give facilities time to budget for the change), and
* interlocks between automatic feeders and recirculation system.
The program anticipated that the biggest complaint would be requiring automatic controllers for disinfectant and pH control on all vessels, but this requirement was broadly accepted by most aquatic facilities...