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Letter of the Month – Don’t Shit In Your Own… Pool

By Monique of Bondi on April 24, 2012 in Other

Hi, I’d like to respond to Wally Wintle in his retort on the ‘rudeness’ of two locals who took offence to his great granddaughter’s activity (which involved pooping in the communal baths when bathing in the nude) at Bronte Baths (Letters, The Beast, April 2012).

Firstly, I agree it is lovely to see young tots run around in the nude at the beach. However, if your child is not toilet trained, there is always the chance of an unwanted faecal missile entering the water, which, if you’re lucky, is in the shape of a small missile, but if you’re not, is a murky, smelly mess. And as a mother, I know there is never any guarantee which one it will be.

Even after my two year-old son was toilet trained we kept using swim nappies for a good six months, until we knew he had sufficient control and understanding not to poo in the water. Why? Because unfortunately your comment of “a little faecal matter in the pool never hurt anyone” is simply not true.

Why do you think Beachwatch programs for Sydney’s beaches measure the faecal content of water to assess their suitability for swimming (http://www.environment.nsw. gov.au/beachapp/default.aspx)? Because faecal matter (and YES, that of an 18 month-old included) contains millions of bacteria and potential pathogens, which, if even a small amount enters the ears, eyes, nose, mouth or skin, cause illnesses including gastroenteritis, flu-like illnesses, dermatitis, ear, nose and throat infections, and sinusitis. They can also cause deep tissue or blood infections through open wounds. For the average healthy person, the symptoms/illnesses may not be too bad, but who is at particular risk? Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. I suspect you may know a few people who fall into these categories?

Our beaches are generally safe for swimming because the faecal matter that is measured by Beachwatch programs has generally come either from stormwater (please see The Beast article from last month titled ‘Just Go Through The Motions And Swim Undeterred’) or from off-shore sewage outlets. Sewage is generally pumped out well away from most swimming areas, allowing it to be greatly diluted in the ocean, taken away with currents, and degraded by several processes, so the amount that reaches our shores is very low. However, if you poop in a pool (particularly if you do it daily as you seem to suggest should be okay), faecal contamination will skyrocket. Unlike the sewage outlets, an ocean pool has very little mixing with the ocean and currents. Public swimming pools, which are chlorinated to try and kill bacteria and pathogens, are immediately closed if a single child ‘releases issue’ into the water. The ocean does not have chlorine to kill the bacteria. In fact, seawater is a very nice place for these bacteria and pathogens to live. So a little bit of faecal matter, ESPECIALLY in the pool, and ESPECIALLY if it happened every day, is NOT OK.

I was not there when the incident occurred, but I can tell you that if I had been I too would have vocalised my objections. It has nothing to do with people despising children, and everything to do with health and hygiene. Yes, everyone should be free to swim in the baths, but they should also trust that the baths are clean and safe to swim in. I completely agree with you that “everyone should take responsibility for their own sanitary conditions”, but this is something that I’m afraid you and your nanny did not do.

I trust and hope that you will listen to some of what I have written and that you might put people other than yourself ahead of your great granddaughter’s ‘right’ to bathe nude and poop freely in public pools the next time you take her swimming.

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