Guest Column - October 2011
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Aquatics & Air Quality

The Canary in the Mine
Aquatics & Stainless Steel

By W.T. (Tom) Sinclair, P.E.

Installation in the Test Facility

In response to Baxter's challenge, a system was developed to remove the humid, chloramines-laden air at deck or water level and exhaust it from the pool envelope. A prototype system was installed at the six-lane Rock Hill (S.C.) YMCA pool, a facility with a reputation for very poor pool area air quality. A team of chemists from a major university determined the baseline chloramines level during normal operations, and then found a 51 percent reduction in the chloramines level with the new system in operation.

Each facility is slightly different and will require its own solution, including sizing of the system and balancing dehumidification and ventilation to provide the best swimming environment. As we have progressed in the understanding of airborne chloramines extraction, we can project even more benefits:

  • Reduced maintenance costs and extended useful building life.
  • Increased HVAC equipment life.
  • Reduced dehumidification loads .
  • Improved times for competitive swimmers as they breathe more oxygen-rich air instead of chloramines-laden air.
The Future

The recently enacted Virginia Graeme Baker Act mandated safety modifications to the suction components of public pools. With the preponderance of evidence of the negative health impact of chloramines-laden air, we should expect a similar directive to clean the air.

Registered professional engineers subscribe to a code of ethics. The health, safety and welfare of the public are paramount. As consultants, we cannot ignore air quality or blame it on others. We cannot do what we did in the past. Each project is unique and requires analysis to determine the proper approach to achieve good air quality and reasonable operating costs. Sinclair & Associates' policy is for all indoor pools to include a chloramine-removing system, and only delete it upon direction of the client who accepts responsibility for the consequences. I applaud aquatic consultants who are willing to step up, learn and embrace technology to design a safe, green, healthy, cost-effective swim environment. The benefits are too great to ignore, and the cost of not using it will be obsolescence the day the facility opens.

As I said to Baxter and the Greenville County Recreation District, "If it can be solved, we'll figure out a way to do it." We will heed the warning of the "canary in the mine."


W.T. (Tom) Sinclair, P.E., is president of Sinclair & Associates Inc., an engineering, architectural and surveying services firm in South Carolina. With more than 35 years of experience in engineering and more than 15 years in aquatic design, Tom has been heavily involved in the development process of The Evacuator, from Paddock Pool Equipment. For more information, visit and