Before You Go - April 2013
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Taking Action
Program Helps Pool Pros With Hurricane Cleanup

By Deborah L. Vence

Several months have gone by since Hurricane Sandy pounded the East Coast, wreaking havoc on homes and businesses in 24 states, causing major power outages and billions of dollars in property damage.

As a result, massive cleanup efforts continue, including swimming pools (likely hundreds to thousands of pool facilities were affected) that need to be spotless before they open up on Memorial Day weekend.

To help guarantee that pool water is free of contamination, Terry Arko, recreation water specialist for SeaKlear Pool and Spa Products, a subsidiary of Halosource Inc., a clean water technology company based in Bothell, Wash., came up with a step-by-step program—available online—to help pool professionals clean and open their swimming pools that were damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

The fact is that pools inundated by hurricane flood waters often contain seawater, salt, sand, large amounts of phosphates and even sewage, so cleanup is "definitely more involved because of the nature of what you're dealing with," Arko said, noting that pool cleanup as a consequence of Hurricane Sandy was a major issue discussed at the Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show in January.

"So, there are other things involved as in any kind of situation where there's been flooding going on. The first thing is that there has to be a thorough inspection of it. A lot more thorough in making sure there is no water damage in the pumps, electrical. It may even involve having an electrician come out and make sure the wires are good … so there's no serious electrical damage down the road," he said.

Since there possibly will be more debris in pool water because of a hurricane than with a regular season opening, you have to physically remove the materials, and you need extra time vacuuming everything out—which is one of the first steps in the guide. You need to remove as much physical debris as possible first, making sure all skimmer and pump baskets are free of debris and the pump and filter are in good working order.

"I would imagine at most startups, the operator would probably superchlorinate [the water], which is the second step," Arko said. "[You want to] superchlorinate the pool to at least the 20ppm level. And, I think the difference here is that because of the possibility of the seawater and it could contain sewage, bacteria, E. coli and the big one is Cryptosporidium. E. coli and Giardia, they are dealt with fairly well. For E. coli, it will knock it out in a couple of minutes. Giardia takes 45 minutes [to be eliminated]. If there's Cryptosporidium, even at a 20 ppm, it could take well over 12 hours to deactivate it," he explained.

He also recommended that pool professionals, as best they can, keep pool water at a pH level of 7.2 to 7.4, and hold it in that range. The water will disinfect better in that range.

Arko's check list, which can be found at, discusses how to clean up damaged pools, and features a water clarifier that is designed to help aid pool owners in restoring dirty pools to clarity. He recommends that to get a pool's filter up and running, pool professionals need to use a good natural base polymer clarifier chemical, which will help to gather or create flocks of material, small contaminants, particularly after heavy-duty superchlorination.

"At my company, we deal with natural clarifiers. We have a specialty type of clarifier, a two-stage clarifier that is specific to encapsulating and removing certain germs like Cryptosporidium, even E. coli," he said.

Another step on the checklist states that once chlorine has been added to the pool, it is recommended to follow immediately by adding 1 quart per 10,000 gallons of SeaKlear PRS STAGE 1 with the filter system running; and after 6 hours or 1 turnover rate of the filter add 1 quart per 10,000 gallons of SeaKlear PRS STAGE 2 and continue running the pool filter; the pool should clear completely within 24 hours after the addition of the PRS STAGE 2. After 24 hours, backwash or clean the filter. The system can work with a portable filter system as well if the existing system is damaged.

Finally, once the water has cleared, pool pros should test for phosphates and use a phosphate remover. Other products can be used weekly throughout the season to keep phosphate levels low, manage water clarity and keep oils out.

For the full checklist, visit: