LETHBRIDGE - If you're heading to Henderson Pool as temperatures soar over the next week, staff will be handing out free swim diapers for babies, along with free, re-useable plastic pants for babies, teens --and-- adults who are incontinent.
It's a new measure being taken to try and prevent the large number of fecal incidents that are plaguing the facility.
And according to Facility Manager Deanna Ward, anyone - young or old - is required to wear the plastic pants if they either aren't potty trained, or if they have a problem controlling their bowel movements.
In addition, babies and toddlers will also have to wear swim diapers. Anyone who doesn't want to, will not be permitted in the pool.
"If people are going to outright refuse, then we won't allow them in the facility. We have to put everyone else's safety as opposed to just one person, first."
But there's also only so much the pool staff can do. Both Ward, and Deanna Belle, who is the Assistant General Manager, say the public needs to take responsibility for themselves and their behaviour.
"We need the public's help," says Belle. "To listen, to follow the procedures, to understand why fecals and contaminations are happening, and to do their part to assist in preventing those things."
That means not only wearing diapers --and-- plastic pants if necessary, but also avoiding the facility if someone's recently been ill, or feels ill, or if they have just eaten.
Vomiting incidents are not uncommon as well.
"If you've been sick, don't come to the pool. Wait two weeks before you come," urges Belle. "Make sure that you're healthy. Make sure you're ready to come to the pool."
She adds that some people have suggested the snack bar be closed. However, people can also bring in their own food, and they don't want to prevent them from doing that if possible.
"We don't want to go to these measures, by not allowing people to have any food at the pool. That takes away. Families pack picnic lunches and they come here for four or five hours. It's a great outing and a very affordable outing for an entire family for a day."
They suggest that children swim for as long as they'd like, then have their lunches, then spend some time re-applying sunscreen, drinking water or going to the bathroom, so that they have time to digest their food a bit.
And Ward understands how and why the public is frustrated, and says they're doing the best they can. "We're probably even more frustrated because we're constantly having to clean up contaminations. It's not always small children that are the people that are contaminating the pool either. "
They say staff will constantly remind people when they're visiting, particularly those with small children, to take frequent bathroom breaks. The first reminder will occur when they're paying for their kids prior to entering the pool. It will apply to anyone with children under the age of eight.
When a fecal or vomiting incident occurs, depending on the severity, the pool is closed anywhere from about 30 minutes to 24 hours. That, explains Ward, is not only a biohazard to others in the pool who can become ill from the bacteria, but it also costs more money for chemicals. Staff may be sent home if a shut down occurs, meaning lost hours for them, and everyone else who came to the pool loses swim time.
"We have Alberta Health Safety guidelines and health standards that we follow...it's a process, it takes time to clean. We don't want anyone leaving here sick."
Belle adds that it's a process to educate the public and they hope staff efforts this summer will go a long way towards doing that.
"We're working with Alberta Health Services, we've got flyers we're handing out...so that we can get everybody on board. Because if the public doesn't help, it's going to be a losing battle."
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