Feature Article - October 2011
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Maintenance Series: Aquatics

What's in the Water?
Prevent Problems With Proper Pool Maintenance

By Dawn Klingensmith

Down to Basics

The most common pool water issues are also (arguably) the most manageable and preventable, tracing back to two basics of pool maintenance: water chemistry and filtration. "With any swimming pool, these are the two most important things, and when a pool gets green or cloudy, one of these things is not working," Sherwood said.

While chlorine and pH levels typically are deemed most imperative, it's also important to monitor calcium hardness, alkalinity and cyanuric acid. Municipal pools and larger public facilities should conduct chemical readings hourly. Water chemistry "is easy to maintain in ideal ranges," Sherwood said, so suboptimal levels generally are a sign of lack of education or caring.

Weather events and large bather loads can affect chemical and sanitizer levels. Low levels of sanitizer will not effectively kill bacteria, which can cause swimmers to become ill. High levels can cause eye and skin irritation. A strong chemical smell is not an indication of too much sanitizer but may in fact mean that more chlorine is needed; the odor is caused when chlorine mixes with but does not effectively neutralize contaminants. A well-maintained pool has little odor.

Ensuring proper filtration and circulation, including turnover rate, throughout the pool also is critical to maintaining water clarity. There are three main filter types, and it is important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines when cleaning filter media. Keep an eye on the pump and its hair and lint basket as well as the flow meter and pressure gauges, which will indicate when there's a filter or pump problem.

A low flow rate "could mean there's dirt, oil or debris built up on the filter," said Matt Satterly, vice president of operations, USA Pools, Roswell, Ga.

For day-to-day maintenance and operations, "Many states require a list of procedures on how to run the facility," Sherwood said. A daily checklist might include everything from water testing and chemical adjustment to opening umbrellas, he said.

Other daily maintenance responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Making sure main drain grates are bolted securely to the pool bottom and clearly visible from any point on the deck.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting decks.
  • Checking to see that ladders, guard chairs and other mounted equipment are secured in place.
  • Checking to see that self-latching gates are functional and fencing is in good repair.
  • Making sure rescue equipment is in good repair and immediately available for use, and the first aid kit is stocked and readily accessible.
  • Making sure the poolside emergency telephone is functioning and labeled.
  • Keeping doors to the equipment and chemical rooms locked and off-limits to unauthorized individuals.
  • Maintaining a daily pool water analysis log with test findings and chemical adjustments.
  • Maintaining water temperature within acceptable levels for the primary activities conducted in the pool.
  • Cleaning and stocking restrooms and locker rooms.

Sherwood recommends facilities keep a detailed, illustrated supervisory plan detailing each and every procedure that's conducted on a daily or occasional basis.