Out of an abundance of caution, the City of Arlington has closed all of its public splash pads and pools until further notice after a water sample collected from the California Lane Park splash pad as part of a voluntary federal study detected the possible presence of the Naegleria fowleri amoeba.
The City of Arlington is one of a handful of cities that have partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a study about splash pad safety. Once in July and once in August, the City collected water samples from the California Lane Park splash pad and sent them to an EPA laboratory for testing as part of the study.
On Tuesday, Aug. 29, the EPA notified Arlington that a sample collected Aug. 17 from that splash pad at 1931 E. California Lane was presumed positive for the presence of Naegleria fowleri amoeba based on laboratory observations. The EPA is currently conducting testing, called a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, to confirm those preliminary observations. The lab is in Gainesville, Florida, and the timing of PCR confirmation may be impacted by Hurricane Idalia, currently affecting the region.
“The City of Arlington is committed to the highest standards of safety and transparency and will keep the community updated regarding the pending test results,” Parks and Recreation Director James Orloski. “Our industry-leading protocols and the advanced technology we have in place give us confidence in the chemical monitoring and treatment at our aquatics facilities.”
Arlington has not been notified of any illnesses or hospitalizations linked to any of its aquatic facilities.
Naegleria fowleri amoeba, which can result in a rare and fatal infection in humans, was connected to the 2021 death of Bakari Williams, who became ill after visiting Arlington’s Don Misenhimer splash pad. In 2022, Arlington developed the Bakari Williams Protocol, which puts additional checks and balances in place for aquatics facility maintenance, and also made recommended upgrades to the aquatics facilities’ chemical testing, controllers, and secondary sanitation systems to ensure facilities are safe for public use.
After the EPA’s notification on Tuesday, Arlington reviewed its inspection records and confirmed that water chlorination levels at the California Lane Park splash pad were continuously within established ranges throughout the summer, as measured by the automated water chemistry controllers. Chlorination levels at the splash pad have averaged 3.5 parts per million, which is more than three times the CDC recommended levels, during operating hours. Additionally, City staff manually tested water quality every 3 to 4 hours while the splash pad was in operation, with the average being four times a day. Click here to view pool and splash pad chemical logs for summer 2023, the Bakari Williams Protocol and the City’s standard operating procedures for pool chemical monitoring.
The risk of Naegleria fowleri infection is extremely low, with only 29 reported infections in the United States between 2013 and 2022, according to the CDC. Naegleria fowleri infects people when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose. This typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, such as lakes and rivers. In very rare instances, the amoeba has been identified in other sources, such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water.
The first symptoms usually start about five days after infection, but they can start within one to two days. Symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea or vomiting. Later symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, seizures, hallucinations and coma. People who have recently visited the California Lane Park splash pad should seek medical care immediately if they develop a sudden onset of fever, headache, vomiting, or stiff neck.
Arlington’s public splash pads have been closed since Tuesday, Aug. 29. All outdoor public pools have been closed since Sunday, Aug. 27 and the East indoor pool was closed Wednesday, Aug. 30. All will remain closed until further notice.
The City of Arlington’s drinking water supply is not affected, and the water quality continues to meet all regulatory safety guidelines set by state and federal authorities.
More About the City of Arlington’s Bakari Williams Protocol
In 2022, Arlington developed new and industry-leading protocols for aquatics facility maintenance and completed nearly $650,000 in improvements to pools and its four splash pads. Improvements included recommended mechanical upgrades to chemical testing, controllers, and secondary sanitation systems at Arlington aquatics facilities. These rigorous protocols exceed federal, state, and industry minimum standards and include:
- Automated water chemistry controllers with advanced sensors and features designed to produce safe and clean water and automatically shut off any splash pads where water readings are not in the acceptable ranges.
- Manual water quality testing by staff three times daily, exceeding the state requirement of one test per day.
- Chlorine minimum levels between 2.5 ppm and five ppm for all splash pads, exceeding the state minimum requirement of 1 ppm.
- Additional staff trained as Certified Pool Operators.
- Addition of QR codes on signs at all aquatics facilities, allowing visitors to access up-to-date water quality information via smartphone devices.
- A departmental reorganization placed aquatic technicians under the operations division, creating a team of other skilled trades groups to work together to ensure the highest quality of work.
- New digital water quality testing capabilities that reduce human error by eliminating visual inaccuracies in the testing process.
- Upgrades to the secondary sanitation process, including a state-of-the-art ultraviolet (UV) system at splash pads.
- Software that replaces the City's handwritten record process by remotely providing real-time water quality data and inspection records to aquatics employees through an app.