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Auckland Council Leisure Network candid about ‘code brown’ occurrences

Auckland Council Leisure Network candid about ‘code brown’ occurrences
May 31, 2021

Explaining the importance of clean water for swimming in its aquatic facilities, Auckland Council’s Leisure Network Services Manager, Garth Dawson has explained how ‘code brown’ situations are dealt with.

In a recent Auckland Council blog post advising how 'code brown' incidents "can ruin a trip to the local pool", Dawson notes that the term can be misleading, stating "there are a lot of misconceptions of what happens when a pool is contaminated by what is commonly referred to as a ‘code brown’.”

With the term referring to an incident where a pool is contaminated by either faeces or vomit, Dawson notes "every public pool throughout the country has to deal with these type of incidents. It is part of having a pool available for the community to use."

Auckland Council manages 90 separate pools spread over 26 sites across the region. Last year those sites had four million aquatic visits and ensuring high water quality standards is a primary focus for the Council.

Dawson highlights "it is important to us that everyone who visits one of our pools feels safe and has fun. We test the water frequently to New Zealand Pool Water Quality Standards to make sure the water quality is top-notch.”

With the testing also occurring after the cleaning of any ‘code brown’ incident, Dawson went on to say "when an incident occurs we have robust systems and procedures in place meaning that most times a pool is closed for only a short amount of time. We thoroughly clean the pool during that closure and test the water quality before reopening. What results is a really clean pool.”

Auckland Council’s pools offers free swimming for young people aged 16 and under to help the children of Tāmaki Makaurau electorate (which covers much of metropolitan Auckland) grow up confident around water.

Dawson highlights that this is an important service for the community and one that the council actively encourages, adding "we love having kids learning to swim and enjoying water play in our facilities, so if we have to manage an incident from time to time, we are happy to do that.”

Advising that with the majority of incidents occurring in learner or leisure pools there are always opportunities for education, Dawson adds "it’s a good reminder to ensure everyone in your family goes to the toilet before getting in the pool. For families with under 3s we ask that they are put in swim nappies. We encourage everyone to wait after eating and before getting in the pool. Finally, it’s important to remind people that if they are feeling sick to please stay at home.”

When an incident does occur Dawson says people should advise staff as quickly as possible, stating "the sooner we can isolate the incident, and temporarily close the pool, the faster we can remove the offending contaminant and start the process of cleaning the water. The sooner we can start that process the sooner we can reopen the pool.”

While ‘code brown’ situations are common in public aquatic centres around the world, facilities across New Zealand readily admit to their occurrence.

A succession of ‘code brown’ incidents at Invercargill's Splash Palace in 2015, attributed to a serial pool defecator who became known as the ‘phantom pooper’ or ‘brown bomber’, made news headlines around the world while frequent code browns at Christchurch's QEII facility in 2018 led to it being known as ‘QE Poo’.

The summer of 2017/18 saw 'code brown' incidents at Auckland swimming pools hit a record, prompting the Council to push out an educational campaign on the issue.

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5th March 2020 - Auckland installs new hygiene stations to protect kauri in Albany

1st July 2019 - US Centers for Disease Control issues warning over cryptosporidium in public pools 

27th July 2018 - Hygiene incidents at Christchurch’s newest pool see it dubbed ‘QE Poo’

16th July 2018 - IQ Pool Solutions introduces ‘code brown’ treatment solution

20th April 2018 - Auckland Council pools report significant rise in ‘Code Brown’ incidents

12th March 2018 - Wellington region warning over cryptosporidiosis and swimming facilities

23rd June 2017 - Cryptosporidium cases lead to closure of Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 Aquatic Centre

14th May 2017 - Baby swim nappies ‘like a poo tea bag in water’

2nd March 2017 - Canadian researchers find significant levels of urine in public pools

19th October 2016 - Wow Wipes provide hygiene solutions for aquatic, fitness, recreation and sport facilities

19th January 2016 - Recreation SA urges swimmers to practice good personal hygiene amid record Cryptosporidium levels

5th August 2015 - How Invercargill’s Splash Palace handled the media during its ‘Code Brown’ crisis

11th June 2015 - Nappy supplier targets ‘code brown’ aquatic centre incidents

26th March 2015 - Serial defecator causes weekly closures of Southland Aquatic Centre

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