A spa pool at the Auckland Council-owned Onehunga War Memorial Pool and Leisure Centre has been closed following the detection of legionella bacteria.

YMCA Auckland, which manages the centre on behalf of the council, shut the spa pool immediately on Wednesday, July 5, following notification from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) that the bacteria had been detected in one of two water samples.

YMCA Auckland has confirmed the facility is operated in line with the widely accepted and rigorous procedures set out in the New Zealand water treatment standards. 

ARPHS had carried out the tests in order to identify possible sources of a case of legionellosis.  Whilst there is no confirmed link, YMCA Auckland and the council are taking all necessary precautions and the pool has now been treated according to procedures recommended by ARPHS, which includes a thorough deep clean and additional chlorination.

It will, however, remain closed until a negative test is returned, which is likely to take two to three weeks. The remainder of the facility is unaffected and open.

Rob McGee, Auckland Council’s Head of Active Recreation, says that following similar incidents last year, the council worked closely with ARPHS and the council’s Environmental Health team to develop improved processes. YMCA Auckland is now working with ARPHS to review the current situation to determine any causal factors in the latest incident.

“Auckland Council and YMCA Auckland are now working together to fully investigate this case and understand if further improvements can be made,” says Mr McGee.

“If necessary, we will seek further guidance from ARPHS and the Environmental Health team to identify if there is anything over and above what we are currently doing to further reduce the chance of the bacteria being present in any of our pools.”

YMCA Auckland Chief Operating Officer Arvid Ditchburn says the organisation takes health protection seriously and acted immediately on the guidance from ARPHS around the closure and treatment of the pool.

“We will also be undertaking testing at our other aquatic sites to ensure they meet the high standards we expect of our facilities,” he says.

“Our current operating procedures meet all New Zealand water treatment standards, but we will be undertaking a review to see if any further improvements can be implemented.”

Mr McGee says regardless of whether spa pools in the Auckland Council network are managed directly by the council or a third party, the health and safety of our pool users is a top priority.

“We’re confident that between the mitigation measures that YMCA Auckland have already undertaken, in line with the guidance given by ARPHS, the risk to public health in this instance is very low.”

Auckland Council tests all of its pools each day to ensure water quality remains within New Zealand standards and also undertakes independent monthly microbiological testing.

Legionellosis is a respiratory infection caused by legionella bacteria. The early symptoms of legionellosis include muscle aches, headache, tiredness, loss of appetite and coughing followed by high fever, chills and occasionally diarrhoea. The period between exposure and onset of symptoms is usually two to 10 days, but can be up to 14 days.

There are about 50 confirmed cases of legionellosis annually in the Auckland region. Only rarely does contact with the bacteria lead to infection and illness. When infection does occur it is as a result of breathing in contaminated aerosols or soils dust. It does not spread person to person, however, if you are concerned, please see your doctor.

More information on legionellosis can be found on the Auckland Regional Public Health Service website here.