Feature Article - February 2004
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In the Swim

The Best Strategies for Aquatic Center Peak Performance

By Kim Tobin

Must-have maintenance strategies

When it comes to keeping an aquatics center's operations flowing smoothly, facilities can be divided into the haves and have-nots. Among what successful facilities have are: funds in reserve to cover maintenance issues, regular checklists, regular preventive maintenance practices and well-qualified operations staff. Facilities that don't possess these important resources can jeopardize the life of their pool and equipment.

One of the biggest challenges facing a facility is not setting aside yearly funds to cover maintenance costs, even in relatively new structures.

"In a new facility, it's easy to assume that you won't have to do anything for a long time, but you can't rely on that," Schwartz says. "We encourage people to accumulate a reserve, even if it's a few thousand dollars a year. They may need things like paint or replacement of pumps and other equipment.

Staffing continuity is also important to keep a consistent knowledge level of all maintenance aspects.

"People are smart and understand their job, but then they leave, and someone new has to start over again," Schwartz says. "There are things that may slip through the cracks, like winterizing not being240ne properly and pump maintenance."

There is also the question of people who may be fully competent, but that competence may not extend beyond the job that they were first hired to do. If thrust into the role of managing a facility from a prior role that required less responsibility or different abilities, they may not be able to pick up the slack.

"People may hire the person who was a lifeguard last year and who did a good job, but the skills required for managing a pool and lifeguarding are not the same," Clayton says. "I estimate that 75 percent of all pool managers in the U.S. are new to the job each year because most pools are seasonal and their managers are hired only for a few months. The newly hired person seldom has any managerial experience in any situation, much less at a pool. Certification programs are extremely important because it indicates that the person has achieved a certain standard of knowledge."

Clayton runs two certification programs—one for pool managers and one for aquatic managers through Aquatic Partners. The Certified Pool Manager (CPM) course is designed for the beginning manager and includes information on both managerial and operational aspects. The Certified Aquatic Manager (CAM) course is designed for administrators or supervisors of a year-round pool.

"The number-one person impacting the life cycle of a facility is the facility operator," Hunsaker adds. "It requires a much more skilled operator to keep an indoor facility going because the parameters for success are much more narrow. Having a well-skilled operator who has the resources they need is the biggest thing."

Pool maintenance: a primer

Information courtesy of Mark Warshaw of Bel-Aqua Pool Supply, Inc. in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Beyond the right monetary resources and properly qualified staff, a baseline knowledge of the principles of proper pool maintenance is crucial to the life of a facility. Preventive maintenance, through regular checkups, remains the only way to ensure that a pool is clean, clear and safe—whether it's seasonal or year-round, indoor or outdoor. The following guide provides the basics across the two broad areas necessary for effective maintenance: water chemistry and everything besides water, including pool equipment, the surrounding area and surface maintenance.

Water quality—life in the balance

To keep water clean and clear, and hence, visitors flocking to your pool, it takes a precise blend of proper water chemistry, filtration and circulation. Water chemistry involves maintaining proper levels of sanitizers to kill bacteria and oxidize organic matter (like algae) and sustaining proper water balance. And it all needs to be done regularly. This improves water quality and swimmer comfort, reduces cloudiness and scaling, and helps prevent corrosion.

Water testing

Check with your local health department to find out which test kit is approved for your area. Things to be aware of include color comparators fading when left in sunlight, which can compromise test accuracy. Test frequently and from several spots around the pool to insure accuracy.

Chemical automation is on the rise for use in testing water and maintaining proper sanitizer levels and water balance. Automatic controllers use ORP (Oxidation Reduction Potential), which unlike standard test kits, can measure the sanitizer activity of the water along with the concentration of sanitizer in the water. ORP and pH electrodes are placed in a sampling of the water. Following user-defined set points, the controller can activate the appropriate automatic chemical feed device.