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17 Nov 2022

Thermea Spa Village | Whitby served with $5m lawsuit by customers affected by staph outbreak
BY Megan Whitby

The property is the first under Groupe Nordik's new Thermëa Spa Village banner

The property is the first under Groupe Nordik's new Thermëa Spa Village banner
photo: Groupe Nordik

On 6 October 2022, thermal spa operator Groupe Nordik opened one of North America's biggest spas in Ontario after a 10-year project. More than a month later, the new Thermea Spa Village | Whitby has been served with a civil lawsuit following a staphylococcus (or staph) outbreak in its saltwater pool.

Calling for CAN$5m (US$3.7m, €3.6m, £3.2m) in damages, the civil lawsuit is being backed by 72 plaintiffs claiming they’ve experienced “immediate adverse health effects” after swimming in the pool, according to CTV News Toronto.

Guests affected have reported symptoms including rashes on the skin, ear infections and flu-like symptoms.

The lawsuit alleges that the pool facilities weren’t ready to open on the launch date and that the company was too slow in shutting down the pools.

In response, a Groupe Nordik representative told Spa Business: “We have committed to complete transparency with our guests and the public. While we deny the allegations in the claim against Thermëa spa village in Whitby, we intend to fully participate in the litigation process.”

The background
On 14 October, the 700-guest spa was notified by the local public health authority that pseudomonas and staph bacteria had been found in its saltwater flotation pool, Källa.

All nine of the spa’s pools were subsequently shut and Groupe Nordik hired a team of water experts to conduct a full investigation. The source of the problem was identified as a malfunction of UV lamps and bromine disinfectant, according to a statement from Group Nordik CEO and co-owner Martin Paquette.

Only Källa was found to be affected by the outbreak but the spa is still operating with a reduced thermal cycle – including only saunas, cold showers and rest areas – but no pool access.

In his initial statement from early November, Paquette said the team was “devastated” to learn of the infections.

“In our 20 years of operation, we’ve never had an incident like this in any of our pools. It’s our intention never to have an incident like this again. As wellness creators, the health and safety of our guests are our utmost priorities.”

After closing the pools, the Groupe Nordik corporate team, its pool builder, designers and consultants conducted a full internal and external audit of all site equipment. Follow this link to view the results.

To rectify the situation, the company has consulted with Dr Roy Vore, a microbial physiologist specialising in recreational water illnesses and chair of the Sanitation and Regulation Committee for the Floatation Tank Association.

Groupe Nordik has now published an action plan and is set to introduce new safety protocols that “exceed anything required by health bodies provincially, and across North America”. Click here to see the full plan.



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