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Feature Article - July 2015

Day-to-Day Aquatics

Heed Warning Signs, Keep a Checklist to Maintain Your Aquatic Facility

By Deborah L. Vence


To operate and maintain an aquatic center successfully, it is imperative that facility operators know the warning signs when there are problems with a swimming pool and how best to manage those problems when they occur.

Everything from water imbalances to defective pool equipment can hinder a facility from running efficiently. The key is in knowing what to look for.

"A seasoned aquatic professional should be able to walk onto the pool deck and just by what they hear and smell, know that there may be an issue. Of course, not all issues can be detected in this matter. The clarity of the water, or lack thereof, can be a warning of chemical issues or filtration issues," said Juliene Hefter, executive director, Association of Aquatic Professionals, based in Austin, Texas.

Information from the USA Swimming website stated that "if the air in an indoor facility smells like chlorine, something is wrong." The acrid smell that is associated with chlorine usually is an ammonia type compound. "The cause of the odor is chloramines. If chloramines are detected the most common solution is to 'shock' the water."

Like anything else, though, doing preventive maintenance is the best approach to thwart problems.

"For us, at the foundation, it comes down to that we want people to use [aquatic] facilities, and the only way facilities are going to be used is [by] keeping them safe," said Alex Antoniou, Ph.D., chief marketing and information officer, National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), Colorado Springs, Colo.

Know the Warning Signs

To keep patrons out of harm's way, aquatic center operators should be knowledgeable and well trained in recognizing the signs when something might be amiss—anything from a change in water chemistry to faulty pool equipment.

For example, "Particles at the base of an inlet could alert the operator to a leak or crack in the laterals of a filter. The best trained operators know that in order to deter issues from occurring it takes constant vigilance and training," Hefter said.

When Antoniou was running aquatic facilities, one of the first things he looked for were issues with the flow meter [which measures the rate of water passing through a pipe], a sign that something might not be right.

"Maybe I needed to clean the filter, or maybe [there was] a blockage," he said.

What's more, "Water that is cloudy, appears hazy or foamy is often an early sign of a developing pool problem," noted Brian Bokowy, business manager, CIM, for a Florida-based company that provides chemicals to the swimming pool and spa markets.

"Unlike mechanical equipment that starts making some strange noise or turns off and on mysteriously, water problems are often more slow to develop, but the signs are there if you watch for them," he said.

In addition, "Watch for water that turns cloudy in the afternoon but is clear in the morning, or has developed an untypical hazy appearance that is not usually present," Bokowy said.

And, while facilities can have problems come up without much warning, "… if the aquatic operator is cognizant of the issues that can arise and makes sure to do daily and weekly maintenance checks," Hefter added, "many of these problems can be addressed before they become a huge issue."

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