Testing the Waters
Tips on Running a Safe & Cost-Effective Aquatic Facility
By Rick Dandes
During these tight economic times, when every line item in a budget is under scrutiny, aquatic facility managers are looking for ways to reduce their operating expenses, while still providing the cleanest, safest and most efficient environment for swimmers.
Water quality and swimmer safety, of course, are always of paramount importance, particularly in light of how social media can affect your business. If swimmers think your pool water is unhealthy or if the chlorine level creates that distinctive, pungent odor, customers will stay away and text others about it. So, perform the basics: "Begin by walking around and doing a daily inspection of the water and the physical components of the system, the pumps and the filters," suggested Brian Bokowy, business manager of a Gainesville, Fla.-based distributor of chemical products, specializing in water treatment.
"I would include with that checking safety hand rails, and looking for algae on the pool deck," Bokowy said. "Water typically does not turn cloudy overnight. A circulation pump typically doesn't just stop working overnight. These types of things you will notice if you are paying attention."
Another example of what to watch for, he said, is when you see water getting a "little bit dull looking, or lacking a little bit of sparkle." Ignore that, and eventually the water will turn cloudy where you can't see the bottom. At that point you should absolutely have safety concerns for your swimmers.
With pumps and filters, Bokowy continued, "you can usually see leaks or hear the motors making a funny noise. Don't ignore a motor that is getting louder all the time or eventually starts spraying water at a faster rate." These problems develop slowly, and by paying attention, you can avoid greater issues. Have someone on your staff walk around the facility when they first come on shift in the morning, or do the walk-around as the last thing before going home in the evening. See what the water looks like every single day.
If you walk into the pump room and the motor and pump are making a funny noise that it wasn't making yesterday, "you can embark on some preventive maintenance, correcting a potential problem before it becomes an actual problem, Bokowy said.
Preventive maintenance is one of the keys to running a safe and cost-efficient facility. With a swimming pool you have chemical components, which maintain proper water clarity, and water balance parameter, the pH, a measure of how acidic or basic the water is in the pool.
"Other basics to watch for," Bokowy said, "include the chemical feed equipment, which will have parts that wear out and parts that need to be replaced, maybe on an annual basis, or every six months so that they continue to operate properly before they fail."
The circulation pump, the filter, the UV units—those physical components also are going to have a preventive maintenance schedule laid out by the manufacturer of that equipment. It may be as simple as replacing O rings, or something more complicated, but there is going to be a maintenance program spelled out by those manufacturers to keep that equipment in proper working condition.
"I would add," he said, "that a lot of people don't realize spending a small amount of money on maintenance tasks that need to be taken care of is really much more cost-effective than waiting until a piece of equipment completely fails. Then you are faced with a shutdown of the facility. You're stuck with parts to fix or replace, if they are even available before a weekend or a holiday. You might have to pay a freight surcharge on things that are not available locally. It is much more cost-effective to have a preventive maintenance plan in place than to repair things on a crisis basis."