State Health Department Issues Precautions to Protect the Public Health at Water Spray Park Attractions

ALBANY, NY, May 26, 2006 - Heading into the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend, State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., today announced new requirements that water spray park attractions must follow to ensure the well-being and health of patrons.

The State Health Department implemented new regulations in January 2006 to assure a sanitary, healthy and safe environment for patrons using spray park attractions with recycled water. Many of these popular summertime attractions shoot recycled water from fountains, jets, spouts, and hoses onto a specially designed splash pad area. No standing water is used, therefore drowning is virtually impossible and the risk of water related injuries are reduced. There are 36 existing water spray park attractions in New York State.

Dr. Novello said, "Our priority is to protect the public health and ensure that all requirements are met by spray park operators before they open this summer. The public must also practice good hygiene when in the spray ground. Anyone who is ill should refrain from going in the spray pad area to avoid getting other patrons sick. We are confident that the new regulations bring added protections to the public that will help prevent similar outbreaks, such as the one in New York last year, from occurring in the future."

The Department's expanded regulations follow a multi-county outbreak of cryptosporidium in upstate New York last summer that stemmed from contaminated water at the Seneca Lake State Park water spray attraction. The number of people with reported illnesses possibly linked to the outbreak reached 3,000 cases in thirty-seven counties. The most common symptoms reported during that outbreak were diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache and loss of appetite. All individuals who were reportedly ill have since recovered.

All spray ground operators must comply with the following state regulations before opening this year:

  • Spray park water attractions are now required to obtain permits from their local health departments;
  • Install appropriate filtration and disinfection systems, including the use of ultraviolet disinfection units;
  • Post signs alerting those with gastrointestinal illness not to enter the spray pad areas; and
  • Construct fencing around the attraction to keep wild life and pets from entering the spray pad.

The monitoring of these spray park attractions is conducted by local health departments in the counties where they are located.

The following precautions should be taken by patrons using water spray park attractions:

  • Always practice good hygiene. It is important to shower before swimming or using spray park features. Always wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on one's body may get into the water.
  • Never drink the water when swimming or using spray park features and avoid getting water in the mouth to prevent potential illness. It is important to note that water at most spray parks is recycled and should not be consumed.
  • Never use spray park features, swimming pools or beaches when experiencing gastrointestinal illness. This is especially important for infants and toddlers in diapers. This may spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Take children in your care for bathroom breaks and/or check diapers often. Children's diapers should be changed in a bathroom and not near spray park features, swimming pools or beach areas to prevent the spread of germs and illness.

For more information about the new regulations or cryptosporidium, please visit the Department's web site at www.health.ny.gov.