Feature Article - April 2014
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Keeping Pools in Tiptop Shape

Automation and More to Boost Pool Maintenance

By Deborah L. Vence

Intervention and Training

Sure enough, while automation has many benefits in keeping pools clean and updated, having employees involved in regular maintenance still is a must.

"The whole issue with automation vs. humans is that it is necessary in the facility no matter what," White said, adding that it is important to have a Certified Pool Operator with a pool and that the system should run 24/7.

In this way, education is mandatory, though not every state or facility demands that pool staff be certified.

However, with the Model Aquatic Health Code put out by the CDC, "the effort right now is just to try to set standards, including safety and equipment, so that every state in the union is adopting this thing, and would have similar control of facilities. That will bring even consistency," White explained.

The CDC is working with public health and industry representatives across the United States to prevent drowning, injuries and the spread of recreational water illnesses at public swimming pools and spas by building a Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), as stated on the CDC website.

The MAHC will be a guidance document that can help local and state authorities make swimming and other water activities healthier and safer, and will serve as a model and guide for local and state agencies needing to update or implement swimming pool and spa code, rules, regulations, guidance, law or standards governing the design, construction, operation and maintenance of swimming pools, spas, hot tubs and other treated or disinfected aquatic facilities.

"Two things almost every human values more than anything else is family and health. We place these two things above everything else. When we go to a pool with family, the experience creates memories that last a lifetime—and beyond," Lachocki said. "Some of my warmest memories involve family water activities. When a person brings their children and family to a public pool, they expect that the pool is maintained by staff trained to the most current standards. When my kids ride a school bus, I expect the driver has a current driver's license."

Yet, so often, many pools are short on having operators seven days per week who have verifiable, minimal training to a national standard.

"How would we feel if our kids got hurt on a bus and the driver did not have verifiable training?" Lachocki noted. "Every public pool should have trained and certified operators."

The degree to which operators are trained often depends on the facility they are operating.

"All individuals who care for a pool at some point should meet a minimum training standard. The most common standard is for individuals who care for a pool, a Certified Pool/Spa Operator (CPO) certification or a similar certification," he said. "It takes two days to complete a CPO certification training classes, or the courses can be done one day online and one day in class. This minimal training helps individuals understand the many risks to users, the facility and staff associated with pools and spas, like drowning, recreational water illness, chemical safety, suction entrapment, slips and falls.

"The training also improves operational efficiency," Lachocki added. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working with industry, academia and government to build a Model Aquatic Health Code that is based on science. It is obvious that basic training for operators makes sense. The science documented in the MAHC verifies this belief. There are fewer public health violations when operators are trained and certified. As a result, the MAHC includes operator training."

Fowler agreed. "If you've had someone go through training on the systems that are actually installed on the pool, then there's minimal chance for human error in the maintenance of that pool.

"Continuous training and review of systems can only lead to better maintenance practices," he added. "Training is needed on chemical automation controllers, proper chemical levels and salt chlorine systems to ensure that proper pool maintenance is achieved, as well as understanding filtration systems and their proper workings is a must as well so you know you're getting proper filtration of the water in the pool."