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Water park was less wet than planned

Old state rules now apply to new industry

 

Kids at the park on Saturday appear to not notice that not all features included water. They were still spashing and laughing in the features that were allowed and then sliding down several big slides and other inflatable toys. - Scott Hunter photo

New interpretations of old regulations forced a last-minute change to plans for a water park, a new feature of the chamber of commerce's Festival of America.

The Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce put on the festival and an associated feature for kids planned to be mostly water features, but it was less so than planned.

The change followed an 11th-hour phone call from a Grant County Health District official who said the district wouldn't allow the features that had been planned.

The district is enforcing state rules written decades ago to address constructing public water features such as big water slides. They are applying them now to an emerging area of concern for public health officials: inflatables and other less permanent water features.

A process imposed for permits takes weeks, but the health district just learned of the chamber's plans last week. That process requires submission of architectural drawings and design specifications.

After discussions with vendor Jump-N-2-Fun, altered features were OK'd, but not the biggest and best slides, which would have pooled water at the bottom. The vendor changed his plans, unpacked and reloaded his truck with other equipment.

Toys once intended for backyard use have now grown to an industrial design and are being used commercially. Public health officials are concerned about the possible spread of waterborne disease in water shared by many people, even though there is no record of it actually occurring in these new water toys.

"They're new enough that there's not a lot of data," stated health district inspector Todd Philips.

Nevertheless, the district shut down a giant inflatable slide at The Gorge amphitheater last year on the day it was set to open for an event at that popular music venue.

Other events have been shut down in other parts of the state as well, said Jun Naotsuka, Water Recreation Program specialist with the state Department of Health, which sets the rules local health districts must enforce.

He said they are contacting manufacturers for design specs and more information so facilities can be permitted more quickly. And they are hoping the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will establish standards in the future.

Only three companies' designs for large water features in the state have been approved so far, Jun said.

And at the end of August, The Gorge is set to give it another go. Philips said he's interested to see how their new design works out.

Not yet clear is whether smaller vendors that service smaller venues, like the one in Coulee Dam last weekend, will also have a chance to operate.

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