Fort Worth Local News

Brain-eating amoeba forces Arlington to shut pools and splash pads

Arlington, Texas – In a sweeping move dictated by an overabundance of caution, the City of Arlington has indefeasibly suspended the operations of all municipal swimming pools and splash pads until an unspecified future date, following the tentative identification of the virulent Naegleria fowleri amoeba in a water sample procured from California Lane Park. This microscopic menace, colloquially referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba,” is infrequently encountered but has been linked to devastating health outcomes, including the tragic demise of a young boy in 2021.

Samples taken on August 17th indicate possible Naegleria fowleri amoeba presence

The fateful water sample, taken on the 17th of August, forms part of a wider, voluntary investigatory initiative conducted in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). James Orloski, the Director of Parks and Recreation for Arlington, disclosed that the EPA had conveyed preliminary results on Tuesday, which raised the specter of a presumptive positive detection of the potentially lethal amoeba in the scrutinized water sample.

Subsequent analyses are currently underway to substantiate the initial findings and confirm, with irrefutable scientific evidence, whether Naegleria fowleri is indeed present. In the interim, the City of Arlington has emphatically stated that they have yet to be apprised of any amoeba-related illnesses or hospital admissions arising from visits to their recreational facilities.

Officials have also issued an unequivocal advisory targeting those who have recently patronized California Lane Park. Individuals manifesting a precipitous onset of symptoms such as fever, severe headaches, vomiting, or a stiff neck are urged to seek immediate medical attention.

The joint endeavor with the EPA elucidates the broader issue of public health implications related to splash pad safety, cementing Arlington’s commitment to proactive vigilance in safeguarding the well-being of its residents. This moratorium on water-based recreational activities is therefore posited as a prudent course of action in mitigating the risk of further tragedies, even as the conclusive verdict from additional tests remains pending.

“This is demonstrative that our process works. Our federal partners helped identify a potential harmful amoeba,” said Arlington Mayor Jim Ross. “We don’t know yet if there’s really one there. But everything worked the way it was supposed to.”

The brain eating amoeba symptoms

Symptoms associated with infection by the insidious Naegleria fowleri amoeba typically manifest within a five-day window post-exposure, although the timeframe can, in some instances, be considerably shorter. This pernicious protozoan has been previously implicated in fatal outcomes, most notably the heart-rending death of 3-year-old Bakari Williams in 2021. Young Bakari contracted the lethal infection subsequent to frequenting Arlington’s Don Misenhimer splash pad.

In the aftermath of this calamitous event, the City of Arlington opted for an out-of-court settlement with the aggrieved Williams family, thereby forestalling protracted litigation. In a subsequent policy recalibration named in homage to the late Bakari Williams, the municipality launched a comprehensive overhauling of its water recreation facilities in 2022. Known as the Bakari Williams Protocol, this augmented scheme encompasses an invigorated regimen of chemical testing and sanitation procedures across the city’s recreational aquascapes.

Further buttressing this initiative, Arlington earmarked an allocation approaching $650,000 for infrastructural advancements, targeting specifically its pools and splash pads. These concerted efforts reflect not merely a reactionary stance, but rather a proactive undertaking to avert similar tragedies in the future, thereby reasserting the city’s unwavering commitment to the safeguarding of public health and safety.

“I’m proud of how Arlington handled it with transparency with holding ourselves accountable,” Ross said. “And we’ve taken the steps to ensure that we would never ever, ever put a child in a position like that again.”

What is the Bakari Williams Protocol

The Bakari Williams Protocol incorporates elevated levels of chlorination coupled with the implementation of an ultraviolet (UV) lighting system designed to serve as a secondary sanitation measure. The infrastructure encompasses cutting-edge automated water chemistry controllers, capable of real-time monitoring of water quality metrics. Should these controllers detect a chemical composition falling beneath predetermined safety thresholds, they possess the capability to trigger an immediate system shutdown.

In addition to the automated apparatus, manual verifications of water quality are executed with rigorous regularity, occurring no fewer than three to four times per diurnal cycle. The city confirmed that its outdoor recreational water facilities have been under lockdown since discrete dates: splash pads were sealed off on Tuesday, August 29, while outdoor public pools met a similar fate two days prior, on Sunday, August 27. The East indoor pool subsequently closed its doors on Wednesday, August 30.

Laboratory analysis aimed at definitively ascertaining the presence or absence of the Naegleria fowleri organism is presently underway at a specialized facility located in Gainesville, Florida. Complicating this timeline, however, is the impending threat of a hurricane, which may introduce unanticipated delays. Optimistically, the earliest revelation of these critical results is projected for this coming Thursday or Friday.

Adding a layer of context, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscored the rarity of the infection, noting a mere 29 reported instances of Naegleria fowleri infections within the United States spanning the period between 2013 and 2022. This datum amplifies the gravity of the situation and accentuates the city’s resolve to maintain an unyielding stance on safeguarding public health.

Click here to view pool and splash pad chemical logs for this summer, the Bakari Williams Protocol and the City’s standard operating procedures for pool chemical monitoring.

Cora Richards

This is Cora, a rising star in the world of online journalism. Cora's passion for writing was sparked at a young age, when she discovered the magic of storytelling through books and films. Born and raised in a small town in southern Texas, Cora worked tirelessly to pursue her dream of becoming a journalist. She started her career at a local newspaper, where she quickly made a name for herself as a talented writer with a unique voice. From there, she landed a job at The Huffington Post, where she covered a wide range of topics, from politics to pop culture.

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