Supplement Feature - February 2008
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A Perfect Storm

Are Water and Air Quality on Your Radar Screen Yet?

By Joseph Ryan


STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Thankfully, pool operators and mangers do have options to combat the growing danger of RWIs and air pollution as well as the growing public perception that aquatic facilities simply aren't safe options for recreation.

"The reason this is an issue is not because there are not tools to use in the war," Lachocki said. "But it is because people just aren't using the tools."

Water quality and air quality at indoor pools are often directly related. A dirty pool, or a pool with unacceptable pH and chlorine levels, will send chloramines and other pollutants into the air that can impact your customer's health and your reputation.

Experts agree that the first and foremost thing pool operators can do is ensure their water chemistry is in balance at all times. A properly disinfected pool can combat most germs and reduce the chances of air pollution. Yet, even well-managed pools can be prone to such problems, experts say. That is because of the various factors that can play a role in the pool's chemistry. For one, sudden increases in the number of swimmers can overburden chlorine and pH levels.

"Even if you have a four- or five-hour water turnover, it still may not be enough if you have an ultra-high swimmer load," Piper said.

Piper recommends that pool operators consider instituting and strictly enforcing swimmer load guidelines. In general, most pools should have a limit that equates to about one swimmer to every 20 to 25 square feet, Piper said. If chlorination and disinfection are a particular issue, he said, perhaps change that regulation to one swimmer for every 30 square feet.

"In some cases that is the only way to resolve some of these air and water quality issues," he said.

Outside the pool, options for better disinfection and filtering continue to multiply for aquatic facility managers. Cost, of course, is always an issue, but UV filters and ozone technology are growing in popularity and availability, experts note. UV and ozone have the added benefit of limiting the amount of chlorine that is needed, thus reducing the chances of air pollution and related illnesses, said Gary Toner, president of Cincinnati Pool Management.

For many pool operators, though, Toner agrees that such items may still be cost-prohibitive. In that case, consider trying filtration options other than the standard sand, such as diatomaceous earth, if possible. Products like Zeobrite, which is reportedly courser than sand, claim to have a better effective rate against crypto than regular sand. New items are coming on the market every day, too, including one that uses finely crushed glass particles. If upgrading your filter media is not an option, there are coagulates on the market that when added to the water act to bind bacteria, viruses and parasites together so they can more easily be trapped by regular filters.

All aquatic facilities will have different issues to consider when weighing these options, including budget, pool size, space and clientele. However, experts say it is critical that considerable weight is given to customer health in the equation.