MESA, AZ - How safe are the splash pads in your city?
We took action after people started asking that question after a man says he contracted flesh-eating bacteria after visiting a Valley splash pad. We found that Peoria, Phoenix, Chandler and Tempe do not re-circulate their water after its use. That means the cities use tap water that goes directly into the sewer and waste management system.
Glendale and Gilbert are the only two cities we spoke to that do re-circulate their water. Glendale says its water is treated just like city pools, while Gilbert's only splash pad has an intricate system that monitors the levels. Glendale maintains chlorine levels consistent with the Maricopa County Health Department standards, officials said.
Gilbert's only splash pad has been open since 2008 and officials there say they have never dealt with any problems or had any type of outbreak. They use filters and chemicals to maintain and cleanse the water they use for their facility. They also hand test their facility three times a week.
"They're really sophisticated, they have not only chlorine and filtration systems but they have bromine, they have a lot of disinfection methods now that can handle or almost over treat the water," said Sean Carlin, a recreation supervisor with the City of Gilbert.
Each city also said its splash pads are maintained weekly. Peoria power washes their splash pads and includes bleach in their clean-up and Glendale tests the water 2-3 times daily.
According to doctors, re-circulated water can pose more risks because not all bacteria will be killed with treatment.
Doctors say the most common way that people get sick is when bacteria from contaminated water enters your nose, mouth, eyes, or cuts/abrasions. But even then, it can be hard to trace the infection back to the source.
"People get skin infections all the time, people go to water parks all the time so you can't like necessarily associate the two," said Dr. Frank Lovecchio, an emergency room physician at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix.
He says the best way to stay clean and healthy at a splash pad is by showering after leaving a splash pad.
Doctors say if you do feel sick and have gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea you should contact your primary care physician.
Each city official we spoke to says they are confident their facilities are clean and assure that they are safe.