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Source: Auckland Council

Code brown. Two words that can ruin a trip to the local pool.

But Auckland Council’s Leisure Network Services Manager Garth Dawson says that the term can be misleading.

“There are a lot of misconceptions of what happens when a pool is contaminated by what is commonly referred to as a ‘code brown’.”

The term refers to an incident where a pool is contaminated by either faeces or vomit but that doesn’t mean a pool is filthy.

“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,” says Garth. 

Auckland Council manages 90 separate pools spread over 26 sites across the region. Last year those sites had 4 million aquatic visits and ensuring high water quality standards is a primary focus.

“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.”

That testing also occurs after the cleaning of any ‘code brown’ incident.

“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 grow up confident around water.

Garth highlights that this is an important service for the community and one that the council actively encourages.

“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.”

With the majority of incidents occurring in learner or leisure pools there are always opportunities for education according to Garth.

“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 Garth says people should advise staff as quickly as possible.

“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.”