Parliament: All water playgrounds and spa pools must be licensed by mid-2021 to improve hygiene

SINGAPORE – Spa pools and water playgrounds – including interactive water fountains – will need to undergo mandatory licensing by the middle of next year or face penalties.

This will ensure that these water facilities comply with chemical and bacteriological regulatory limits for water quality.

This was one of the changes in the Environmental Public Health (Amendment) Bill, which was passed in Parliament on Monday (Oct 5).

Presenting the Bill for debate, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said that pathogens that lurk in water, such as the Legionella bacteria, can be transmitted through the inhalation of contaminated airborne water droplets.

Aquatic facilities such as swimming pools, spa pools and water playgrounds, and aerosol-generating systems such as cooling towers, can harbour such bacteria, she added.

The United States had around 57 legionellosis outbreaks associated with aquatic facilities between 2000 and 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. As a result, more than 600 fell ill and six people died.

Noting that similar outbreaks had occurred in Australia, France and the United Kingdom, Ms Fu said: “While such outbreaks have not occurred here, we must not be complacent.”

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said that Singapore saw a total of 46 cases of legionellosis from 2015 to 2018, with four deaths during the same period.

The Agency added that spa pools and water playgrounds are gaining popularity in Singapore, and that as a result, people of all ages may come into contact with them regularly.

Currently, all swimming pools that members of the public have access to, including those in condominiums, are already licensed by NEA.

Under the new Bill, spa pools and water playgrounds will also have to meet water quality dictated and other regulations in the Code of Practice for Environmental Health.

Meanwhile, it will be mandatory for aerosol-generating systems such as cooling towers to be registered.

Cooling towers are part of large ventilation and air-conditioning systems, and harness evaporation of flowing water to cool a building.

While regulated by the NEA under the Environmental Public Health (Cooling Towers and Water Fountains) Regulations, registration of such towers is currently voluntary.

“Currently, with voluntary registration in place, the total number of these cooling towers and their locations are not fully known. To enhance Singapore’s preparedness in responding to potential disease outbreaks caused by these systems, a mandatory registration of cooling towers is being introduced to enhance (their) traceability,” said NEA.

Those who fail to obtain a valid licence for their aquatic facility or register an aerosol-generating system may be fined up to $5,000 for a first offence. Repeat offenders may be fined up to $10,000, jailed up to three months, or both.

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