Environmental Health

Public Recreational Bathing

Healthy and Safe Swimming Week 2022: 
Make a Healthy Splash—Stay Healthy and Safe in Splash Pads 

Swimming is a fun, healthy way to stay physically active and spend quality time with family and friends. Healthy and Safe Swimming Week highlights the roles that swimmers, parents, aquatics and beach staff, residential pool owners, and public health officials play in preventing disease outbreaks, drowning, and pool chemical injuries.  

Splash pads (also known as interactive fountains, spray pads, spray parks, or wet decks) are aquatic venues that spray or jet water on users. Splash pads are usually designed so that standing water does not collect in the water play area to reduce the risk of drowning. Because of this design, splash pads do not always meet the local, state, territorial, or tribal definition of an “aquatic venue.” This means they are not always regulated, nor are they always required to disinfect the water with germ-killing chemicals. Splash pads can spread germs and make users sick if the water is not adequately disinfected. So, users and parents of young users should take their own steps to stop the spread of germs. To learn more Please visit the CDC's Splash Pad webpage. 



Splash pad users and parents of young users can take a few steps to help stop the spread of germs in the water: 


  • DO stay out of the water if you are sick with diarrhea. 
  • DO shower before getting in the water. 
  • DO take kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers every hour. 




The Facts: 

  • More children ages 1–4 die from drowning than any other cause of death except birth defects. 
  • Drowning happens in seconds and is often silent. 
  • Drowning can happen to anyone, any time there is access to water. 

You can prevent drowning by: 

  • Learn basic swimming and water safety skills 
  • Closely supervise
  • Wear a life jacket 
  • Learn CPR 

To learn more, please visit the CDC's Drowning Prevention website. 



You can get sick with diarrhea if you swallow contaminated recreational water—water in pools, hot tubs, water playgrounds, or oceans, lakes, and rivers. In fact, diarrhea is the most common illness reported for outbreaks linked to recreational water!  To find out more about how contaminated recreational water may impact you please follow this link to the CDC's Diarrhea and Swimming webpage. 



Pool chemicals, such as chlorine and bromine, are added to treated venues (for example, pools, hot tubs/spas, and water playgrounds) to protect swimmers from the spread of germs and prevent outbreaks. Other pool chemicals help with the disinfection process (for example, pH control), improve water quality, stop corrosion and scaling of equipment, and protect against algal growth. However, pool chemicals can injure people when mixed together or when appropriate personal protective equipment is not used when handling them. Please visit the CDC's Pool Chemical Safety webpage for more information. 



Public recreational bathing (PRB) facilities are not required to implement any COVID-19 mitigation measures for the 2022 recreational bathing season. However, facilities may choose to implement such measures in addition to bathing stanrds already in place. The Centers for Disease Control has stated that "there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through swimming pools, hot tubs, splash pads, or fresh and marine water (such as water in lakes, rivers, ponds, and oceans)". The CDC's website COVID-19 and Public Pools and Beaches provides some information on steps establishments can take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 within their environments.


Additional Resources

Signs and Posters

NJ COVID Information HUB

What to Do If You or Someone You Know is Sick

CDC - Considerations for Public Beaches



Cyanobacteria are a type of bacteria capable of photosynthesis. Although they are not true algae, they were often referred to as “blue‐green algae”. A cyanobacterial harmful algal bloom (HAB) is the name given to the excessive growth, or “bloom”, of cyanobacteria. Adverse health effects from recreational exposure to cyanobacterial cells and cyanotoxins can cause effects ranging from a mild skin rash to serious illness. HABs often occur under suitable environmental conditions of light, temperature, nutrient enrichment, and calm water. CyanoHABs and their toxins can harm people, animals, aquatic ecosystems, the economy, drinking water supplies, property values, and recreational activities, including swimming and commercial and recreational fishing. 

In New Jersey, HAB monitoring, identification and response activities are conducted through a collaboration of partners including the Department of Environmental Protection’s-Bureau of Freshwater & Biological Monitoring, Department of Health-Public Recreational Bathing Project, and local health authorities who oversee freshwater lakes, rivers and streams. Please access the links below to learn more about HAB’s and New Jersey's coordinated response efforts. 



Additional Resources

New Jersey Harmful Algal Bloom Main Page

Questions about Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB)

Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) -associated Illness

EPA's Cyanobacterial HABs in Water



The Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program (CCMP) is a collaborative effort by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Division of Water Monitoring and Standards, Department of Health (DOH), Public Health and Food Protection Program's (PHFPP) Public Recreational Bathing Project and coastal local health authorities (LHA), to assess coastal water quality at public recreational bathing beaches. Sources of water pollution are subsequently investigated to protect public health and safety as results are contiuously shared with the public.

Water samples are collected from coastal marine waters routinely from mid-May through September. Samples are analyzed for the fecal indicator bacterium, Enterococcus. Enterococcus itself is generally not harmful but indicates the possible presence of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria, viruses, and protozoans that also live in human and animal digestive systems.

Swimming in water exceeding the standard poses an increased risk of illness, such as gastroenteritis, low grade fevers and infections. To protect the public’s health, any sample found to exceed the maximum standard concentration of 104 colony forming units of Enterococci per 100 ml of sampled marine waters, requires a swimming advisory and/or closure of the recreational bathing waters. Resampling and a sanitary survey of the area by a licensed health inspector is conducted.

The DEP coordinates CCMP activities, with cooperation of the DOH, to ensure New Jersey’s bathing beaches are safe and clean. You can find more information about beach water quality sample results, beach status, reports, fact sheets and similar information by visiting: https://www.njbeaches.org/.





Complaints regarding public recreational bathing facilities may be directed to the facility's local health department.


Last Reviewed: 4/19/2023