Swimming to a Solution
Nor Gwyn Swim Club in North Wales, Pa.
By David Painter
or Gwyn swim club is a family membership organization located in a suburban Philadelphia community and has been in continuous operation since 1958. The original facility was too small to accommodate the ever-growing population of the area, which led the club to move to its present location in Upper Gwynedd Township in 1976.
The club's focus has been on family activities and competitive swimming. It has its own swim team, which competes in a swim club league. It also provides facilities for summer workouts for local high school swimmers and the Germantown Aquatic Club—a strong national-caliber competitive team. The pool is filled with competitive swimmers from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and the balance of the day is open family swimming for the club membership of 700 families. The pool has had as many as 1,200 attendees on hot summer days.
The 1976 facility was built to international standards with a 10 lane by 50-meter course and a 12 lane by 25-yard course for competition. Thus, it is a large pool of over 600,000 gallons. It was equipped with two vertical-tank high-rate sand filters and two 15-horsepower circulating pumps. The filter tanks were standard steel construction, subject to attack by swimming pool water. Inevitably, the filters began to spring leaks.
In early 2006 the pool's management team decided that the filters would have to be replaced. A group of interested members joined with Tim Damico, the club president, and Jim Dillalogue, the manager of maintenance for Upper Gwynedd Township, to study their potential options and select a new filter system, with the hope of having it in operation for the 2006 season.
As a starting point the group began contacting local swimming facilities to find the type of filters they were using and any benefits or problems they were encountering. It soon became evident that the "conventional wisdom" was that the high-rate sand system be replaced with the same type of equipment. However, one pool renovation specialist came forward with a proposal offering vacuum diatomaceous earth (vde) filtration as a better way to go.
Mike Stachel of Mountain Lake Pool and Patio outlined a long history of successful operation of this type filter in very large pools. The benefits he enumerated were lower power costs, lower water consumption, lower first cost and considerably less maintenance time. The latter point was of great interest to the club since their bather loads had pushed them to the point of backwashing the sand filters as much as once a day. This required almost constant attention from maintenance people, whose time was better spent elsewhere. The pump power consumption for the vde system was projected to be 20 horsepower versus 34 horsepower on new sand filters, which would result in a reduction in electric charges of $3,000 for the 13-week season.
To complete their evaluation the committee members visited some of the vde filter references given and were very satisfied with the operations they observed. Filter run times were measured in weeks or months, and the water clarity was exceptional. The systems required very little attention, and invariably the pump motors were smaller than those on comparable facilities.
At this point it seemed that the vde filter was clearly the best option. Time was running short for the 2006 season, but Stachel felt that the project could be completed in time. He was given authorization to proceed on April 1, 2006 and completed the installation with full startup in mid-May.
The opening of the pool in spring 2006 brought immediate comments from the members about the clarity and sparkle to the water. One regular lap swimmer commented that it was like looking at plasma television compared to standard TV.
As the season progressed it became clear that all the benefits hoped for were becoming fact. A vacuum gauge on the pool pump was the indicator of when a backwash would be required. Weeks went by with no significant change in the gauge. In fact it was halfway into the summer before a filter cleaning was required, and the subsequent run lasted until season end. Electric bills were immediately running at one-half of previous years. Water usage also dropped from an estimated 400,000 gallons the previous year to 6,000 gallons for the single cleaning with the vde system. Maintenance time on the filter itself was insignificant, as was the cost of the de powder. It was estimated that the operating costs for the season were reduced by $5,000 with the new system.
The pool committee had a list of improvements to be made to the club. The first was the filter system and the results were impressive. At the end of the 2006 season Damico was pleased to advise the pool committee that the filter replacement was without a doubt the best thing that was ever done for the club.