Apartment, building industries fight diarrhea-sign requirement for recently built multifamily pools

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Managers of apartments and condominiums should not have to post signs at their swimming pools prohibiting diarrhea-afflicted residents from the water.

Such a ban is unenforceable, health protections are unproven, and the signs – which must have words or a diagram — are a magnet for theft.

Unfortunately, the rule is already on the books for apartment and condominium pools built since September 2012. The California Apartment Association and California Building Industry Association are trying to change that.

Mike Nemeth CAA Strategic Communications Manager

Mike Nemeth
CAA Strategic Communications Manager

On Nov. 5, both trade groups petitioned the California Department of Public Health to exempt multifamily housing from the signage requirement.

As written, the rule does not take into account the size or use of the swimming facility, treating sparsely used apartment pools the same as it does crowded water parks.

The sign not only addresses people who currently have diarrhea, but those who’ve had it in the past 14 days.

Apartment communities rarely have someone assigned to watch the swimming pool, let alone guard it against the intestinally distressed.

“It is also unreasonable to assume an apartment pool employee (assuming one exists) would ever approach a pool user and ask if they ‘currently have active diarrhea or have had active diarrhea in the past 14 days,’” the petition states. “Most importantly, it would be ill-advised for an apartment pool employee to ever attempt to enforce this regulation as such action would almost certainly be the basis for charges of harassment by the pool user.”

signTalk about asking a personal question. And unless there is visible evidence, how would one know whom to ask? We’ve all heard of racial profiling; what kind of profiling would this be?

Besides, the Department of Health has neglected to show either CAA or CBIA what benefits the signs provide, whether at a water park or an apartment complex pool.

It’s not for lack of asking. On two occasions, the petitioners have requested that health officials provide the technical evidence used to justify the mandated signage at small, low-traffic apartment and condominium pools. To date, neither association has gotten a response.

Sharing a pool with someone having a diarrhea episode is disgusting and uncomfortable for both parties. But where’s the evidence that a sign would prevent this from happening and what illnesses it would prevent from spreading?

If anything, the diarrhea signs undermine the credibility of other signs that broadcast legitimate pool rules, such as “no diving.” And while they probably won’t keep people with diarrhea away, they do attract delinquents.

“In addition to being the focus of public bewilderment, these signs have become the object of theft,” the petition points out. “These specific signs have become the focus of young vandals seeking to collect them. … We suspect this is a problem not considered by DPH during the initial development of these regulations.”

We hope that state health officials take a signal from us and remove the diarrhea-sign requirement from apartment and condo communities.

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