A company that operates a new spa in Whitby, Ont. says it’s implementing new safety protocols that “exceed anything required by health organizations” in Ontario, weeks after it closed its pool after several reports of customers getting sick.
Groupe Nordik, which runs Thermëa Spa Village, says it has been conducting a “comprehensive audit” since October 14 – the same day Durham Region Health Department (DRHD) informed the spa it had found pseudomonas and staph bacteria in one of its pools. The spa was officially opened on October 5.
“In our 20 years of operation, we have never had an incident like this at any of our pools, and we intend to ensure that there will never be an incident like this again,” the inspection report released Wednesday said.
“As a creator of well-being, the health and safety of our guests is our top priority. Our commitment is to get this right and ensure that the public can trust us again.”
Customers suffered “very serious injuries”
On Thursday, 45 customers hope to seek damages from the spa, out of the 28 reported last week, says Justin Linden, a lawyer representing the group.
He still gets calls from customers reporting “very serious injuries,” he says.
“We had the opportunity to go through the spa’s audits, and according to their own audit, basically everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong,” Linden said.
He noted that it was “particularly worrying” that the spa continued to operate for several days and people were not warned after being notified by the DRHD.
“The spa’s job was to make sure it was operating safely, and the inspection reveals it wasn’t. And as a result, a lot of people got very, very sick.”
People involved in the legal process have reported symptoms such as skin rashes, ear infections and hearing loss.
What the inspection revealed
Three factors contributed to the bacteria being found in one of its pools, says Groupe Nordik, its pool builder and designer, consultants and microbial physiologist.
The company said before opening that all of its nine pools were prepared for inspection based on provincial laws and inspections by the Durham Department of Public Health. While it closed all pools “out of an abundance of caution” after customers reported getting sick, it says bacteria was found in only one pool, the Källa pool.
First, a valve in the Källa Basin’s bromine erosion system failed “sometime after launch,” the report says. The system works as the pool’s primary disinfection system.
While the company says it has not been able to determine the cause of the valve failure as of Wednesday, it says it has replaced the valve and installed a backup system.
The inspection also revealed a malfunction of the ultraviolet disinfection system, which served as a secondary safety measure for the pool. The company has since replaced the system’s flow switch, the report says.
Finally, the audit also found that the “highly” concentrated salt solution in the pool resulted in the bromine not fully dissolving in the water and ultimately acting as “a complete chemical barrier to bacteria as we had been advised.” “
The company says it has since converted the exposed pool’s disinfection system to chlorine and drained, disinfected and reassembled the pool and all related systems.
Regaining public trust
In addition to this, Groupe Nordik says it will introduce new safety protocols that exceed the requirements, including two chlorine disinfection systems, doubling the salt content of the Källa pool and installing an alarm in the ultraviolet disinfection system.
It also says it has an on-site incubator to conduct regular bacterial tests.
“We understand that we are the only recreational pool in Canada with this feature on site and one of only a few in North America,” the report reads.
Groupe Nordik says that it will publish the results of the inspection transparently, and updates will follow as new information appears.
Updates about the improvements and the reopening of the Källa pool will come in the coming weeks and months, the company says.
“We decide with 100 percent certainty that we will be able to open Källa’s swimming pool in time and offer a safe experience to all our guests.”
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