Information for operators of public pools and spas
Regulated recreational water facilities
Regulated recreational water facilities include public pools and spas.
A public pool means a structure, basin, chamber, or tank containing, or intended to contain, an artificial body of water for swimming, water sport, water recreation or entertainment.
It does not include one that is located on a private residential property (for example a backyard pool), under the control of the owner or occupant and that is limited to use for swimming or bathing by the owner or occupant, members of their family, and their visitors. It also does not include those pools that are used solely for commercial display and demonstration purposes.
A class “A” pool is:
- one in which the general public is admitted
- operated in conjunction with, or as a part of a program of an educational, instructional, physical fitness or athletic institution or association, that is supported in whole or in part by public funds or public subscription
- operated on the premises of a recreational camp, for use by campers and their visitors and camp personnel
A class “B” pool is:
- operated on the premises of an apartment building that contains more than five dwelling units or suites, a mobile home park for the use of the occupants and their visitors
- operated as a facility to serve a community of more than five single-family private residences, for the use of the residents and their visitors
- operated on the premises of a hotel, for the use of its guests and their visitors
- operated on the premises of a campground, for the use of its tenants and their visitors
- operated in conjunction with a club, for the use of its members and their visitors, or a condominium, co-operative or commune property that contains more than five dwelling units or suites, for the use of the owners or members and their visitors
- operated in conjunction with a day nursery, a day camp or an establishment or facility for the care or treatment of persons who have special needs, for the use of such persons and their visitors
- one other than a Class A pool, that is not exempt from the provisions of the Public Pools Regulation.
A public spa means a hydro-massage pool containing an artificial body of water that is intended primarily for therapeutic or recreational use, that is not drained, cleaned or refilled before use by each individual and that utilizes hydrojet circulation, air induction bubbles, current flow, or a combination of them over the majority of the pool area.
Opening or re-opening a public pool or spa
All public pool and public spa operators must notify Public Health Sudbury & Districts of their intention to open or re-open a public pool or spa. Contact Public Health Sudbury & Districts for an inspection if your pool and/or spa:
- is ready to be put into use after construction or alteration
- is ready to re-open after it has been closed for a period of more than 4 weeks duration
No Class A or Class B pool and/or spa are permitted to open to the public until written permission from Public Health Sudbury & Districts is given.
What types of disinfectants can I use in public pools and spas?
Chlorine and bromine are the only two disinfectants allowed for use in public pools and spas in Ontario. Chlorine is currently the most widely accepted means of disinfecting pool and spa water. Chlorine as a disinfectant is available in a chemical compound or through saltwater chlorination. Saltwater chlorination uses a source of power to pass an electric current between two electrodes immersed in a solution of salt. This creates chlorine gas from the anode (positive pole).
As disinfectants, chlorine or bromine ensure the health of the bathers by quickly and efficiently destroying most harmful pathogens introduced to the water through bather load. Their secondary function is to oxidize the organics that make up the bulk of bather load. Disinfecting agents must be monitored and recorded.
The required tests and frequency are legislated and can be found in the Public Pools Regulation. Examples of tests required include:
Frequency of water tests for public pools and spas
Sections 7(8)(a-g), 7(10),7(11) and 7(12)of the Public Pools Regulation states:
|Water Test||Indoor pool||Outdoor pool||Spa||Frequency of tests without automatic sensing device||Frequency of tests with automatic sensing device|
|Total alkalinity||80 ppm to 120 ppm||80 ppm to 120 ppm||80 ppm to 120 ppm||½ hour before opening and every two hours while the pool is open to bathers||½ hour before opening and every four hours while the pool is open to bathers|
|pH||7.2 to 7.8||7.2 to 7.8||7.2 to 7.8||½ hour before opening and every two hours while the pool is open to bathers||½ hour before opening and every two hours while the pool is open to bathers|
|Free available chlorine (FAC)||0.5 ppm to 10 ppm||0.5 ppm to 10 ppm||5 ppm to 10 ppm||½ hour before opening and every two hours while the pool is open to bathers||½ hour before opening and every two hours while the pool is open to bathers|
|Total bromine||2.0 ppm to 4 ppm||2.0 ppm to 4 ppm||5 ppm to 10 ppm||½ hour before opening and every two hours while the pool is open to bathers||½ hour before opening and every two hours while the pool is open to bathers|
|Oxidation reduction potential||600 mV to 900 mV||600 mV to 900 mV||600 mV to 900 mV||Daily||Daily|
|FAC where cyanurate stabilization is maintained||1.0 ppm to 10 ppm||½ hour before opening and every two hours while the pool is open to bathers||½ hour before opening and every two hours while the pool is open to bathers|
|Cyanuric acid||Not greater than 60 mg/L||Weekly||Weekly|
|Water clarity||Ability to see a black disc 150 mm in diameter on a white background on the bottom of the pool at its deepest point from a point on the deck 9 m away||Ability to see a black disc 150 mm in diameter on a white background on the bottom of the pool at its deepest point from a point on the deck 9 m away||Ability to see the lowest outlet drain when the spa is in a non-turbulent state||½ hour before opening||½ hour before opening|
|Water temperature||Maximum temperature of 40°C (104°F)||½ hour before opening||½ hour before opening|
In addition to the water tests listed above, there are also operational requirements that pool and/or spa operators must test or monitor. All data must be recorded. These include:
- emergency telephone
- ground fault interrupter
- make-up water reading
- number of bathers
- safety equipment and health warning signs
- water outlet covers
- emergencies, rescues, or breakdowns of equipment
- draining, inspection, and refilling of the spa
Criteria for closing a public pool or spa
A public pool or spa is subject to immediate closure by a public health inspector when any of the following conditions are observed:
- The pool or spa is not made inaccessible when closed.
- Water clarity is poor or the black disc is not available or visible (pools only).
- The water has been fouled by blood, feces, urine, or vomit.
- The filtration or circulation system is not operating properly or is malfunctioning.
- The drain cover or fittings are missing, loose or not in good repair.
- Safety equipment is missing, malfunctioning, or not in good repair.
- Disinfectant is not detected or is at levels that are too high and may adversely affect the bather.
- A qualified lifeguard is not available where applicable.
- Emergency stop button does not deactivate all pumps when activated (spa only).
- Vacuum relief mechanism is inoperable (spa only).
If any one of these conditions are observed during your routine checks, immediately close the pool or spa until the problem is rectified. Contact a public health inspector for guidance.
What are the steps for cleaning after pool fouling (vomitus, liquid stool/diarrhea, or blood)?
Normal disinfectant levels cannot cope with a pool grossly fouled by vomitus, blood, or feces. It is essential that quick action be taken when such an occurrence happens. All pool fouling incidents must be recorded.
- As soon as a fouling is observed, evacuate bathers, and close the pool.
- Switch off the recirculation and disinfection systems.
- If possible, remove foreign matter by skimming, vacuuming etc. If necessary, clean the pool and deck surfaces and disinfect them with a chlorine solution having a strength equivalent to at least 50 mg/L chlorine, while wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.
- Direct discharges from skimming and vacuuming of the pool water to the sewer; if this is not possible, operate recirculation pump but by-pass the filter.
- Raise the chlorine level in the pool water to 20 mg/L of free available chlorine. Do this by adding chlorine directly to the pool while recirculation system is off and also ensure the pH is in the range of 7.2 to 7.5.
- Test the pool water after addition of chlorine to ensure that 20 mg/L of free available chlorine residual level has been reached. Maintain pH at 7.2 to 7.5.
- Resume recirculation system (if turned off) ½ hour after addition of chlorine. Let circulate for 8 hours and then perform backwash procedures. Backwashing helps to reduce high chlorine levels. You may need to add fresh make-up water to the pool after backwashing.
- Before re-opening to the public, test the pool water levels for free available chlorine and pH after 8 hours. Free available chlorine residual should be within the range of 1.0 – 2.0 ppm, and pH within the range of 7.2 – 7.8 before re-opening. Addition of chlorine neutralizer can be used to lower chlorine levels faster.
- Disinfect all equipment used in the clean-up by immersing in disinfectant solution having a strength equivalent to at least 50 mg/L chlorine.
- Record test level results in the pool log including occurrences of pool foulings. The public health inspector may ask to see the pool log at a later date.
What are the steps for cleaning a spa fouling (vomitus, liquid stool/diarrhea, or blood)?
Normal disinfectant levels cannot cope with a spa grossly fouled by vomitus, blood, or feces. It is essential that quick action be taken when such an occurrence happens. All spa fouling incidents must be recorded.
- As soon as a fouling is observed, evacuate bathers and close the spa to bathers immediately.
- Shut down the hydrotherapy jets and circulation pumps.
- Drain all the water from the spa. Dispose the water to waste.
- Using proper personal protective equipment, scrub vigorously all the spa surfaces, skimming devices, and circulation components with a chlorine solution of a minimum concentration of 5 mg/L. After scrubbing, rinse the spa with clean water and flush to waste.
- Replace filters or filter media.
- Refill the spa with clean water.
- Hyperchlorinate using 20 mg/L free available chlorine.
- Keep the hydrotherapy jets off and let the hyperchlorinated water circulate for 1 hour in all the components of the spa.
- Turn on the hydrotherapy jets to circulate the hyperchlorinated water for 9 additional hours. Ensure that 20 mg/L of free available chlorine is maintained in the system for the entire 10 hours.
- Flush the entire system to remove the hyperchlorinated water from all the equipment.
- Ensure that disinfectant (bromine or chlorine), total alkalinity and pH meet the regulated levels.
- Open spa to bathers.
What are the safety requirements for public pools and spas?
Every owner and operator of a public pool or spa is responsible for maintaining the pool or spa and their equipment in a safe and sanitary condition.
Class A and class B pools
- The pool must remain inaccessible to people who are not involved with its maintenance and operation during hours when it is not intended to be open to the public.
Black disc and water clarity
- There must be a black disc affixed to the deepest part of the pool and it must be visible from any point on the pool deck 9 metres away from the disc.
The operator of a swimming pool must ensure that the following safety equipment is present at the pool at all times:
- One electrically insulated on non-conducting reaching pole that is at least 3.65 metres long.
- Two buoyant throwing aids tied to a rope that is at least half the width of the pool plus 3 metres.
- In the case of a Class B pool that is in operation and has a slope of more than 8 per cent, a buoy line.
- One spine board.
- One first aid box that is fully stocked.
- Emergency telephone. Cellular telephones do not meet the regulatory requirements.
- Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Test buttons associated with the GFCI must be tested and operational.
- Pool water outlet covers must be properly installed and in good repair.
- Safety signage. Two signs must be posted with the minimum wording required by the regulation. It is suggested that the pool admission standards be posted. If you require the pool admission standards sign call Public Health 705.522.9200 ext. 464 or told-free at 1.866.522.9200.
- The spa must remain inaccessible to people who are not involved with its maintenance and operation during hours when it is not intended to be open to the public.
Water clarity and temperature
- The lowest outlet drain must be clearly visible when the spa is in a non-turbulent state.
- The spa must be equipped with a tamper-proof upper limit cut off switch that limits the maximum temperature of the spa to 40˚C (104ºF).
- A spa containing hydro-massage jet fitting(s) must be equipped with a timing device that:
- controls the period of operation of the jet pump
- can be set to a maximum of 15 minutes; and
- is located where it requires the bather to exit the spa to reset it
- Any suction system or pump that serves a spa must be equipped with a vacuum relief mechanism.
- Emergency telephone must be located within 30 meters of the spa.
- One first aid box that is fully stocked.
- Emergency stop button must be available that can deactivate the pumps. The emergency stop button must:
- be separate from the spa’s timing device;
- be located within the vicinity of the spa; and
- activate an audible and visual signal when used.
- Other emergency equipment that is only required for public spas that have an inner horizontal dimension greater than three metres:
- One electrically insulated non-conducting reaching pole that is at least 3.65 metres long.
- One buoyant throwing aid tied to a rope that is at least half the width of the pool plus three metres.
- One spine board.
If safety equipment is provided for a public pool that operates in the immediate vicinity of a public spa, an owner and/or operator is not required to provide duplicate emergency equipment, so long as these items are conveniently located for the emergency use at the spa.
Pool operators can use these resources to raise awareness about recreational water illnesses and pool chemical safety among swimmers, pool operators, and residential pool owners. Display these resources in visible areas such as in bathroom stalls, shower areas, and diaper-changing stations at pools, and hot tubs, where patrons can easily see and read them before getting into the water.
- Don’t Pee in the Pool Poster (PDF, 1 MB)
- Pool Chemical Safety Use Poster (PDF, 1 MB)
- Healthy Swimming Poster (PDF, 1 MB)
- Public Pool and Spas Operator’s Guide (Middlesex-London Health Unit, PDF, 11 MB)
This item was last modified on June 15, 2023