Feature Article - January 2015
Find a printable version here

Safer Waters for All

MAHC Created to Improve Pool Safety

By Deborah L. Vence

Ron George, aquatics division manager for a manufacturer of UV treatment systems, said water treatment today is about how facilities provide a cleaner, safer and more enjoyable experience for patrons, all while using less chemicals and wasting water.

"Water is the power of the future," George said. "We cannot exist without it. Technology is moving to solve all these issues at a reasonable cost while still reducing the risks to our patrons and the owner/operator.

"Systems today more closely monitor and control chemical use," he said. "Filtration today is utilizing technology to remove more organics from the water to provide a clearer, cleaner body of water to recreate or compete in. This is being accomplished with newer technology rather than conventional sand filtration. Regenerative media filtration filters more particles from the water using less water.

"The buzz phrase over the last few years, 'Recreational Waterborne Illness' (RWI), has led to a total re-evaluation of how we maintain aquatic facilities," he said. "Secondary and supplemental disinfection with validated ozone and ultraviolet light (UV) systems are now an integral part of any water treatment system today and in the future. The future of water treatment will see the use of less chemicals and new ways to treat the water."

As stated earlier, developments in water treatment include UV pool sanitizers being added, particularly at older indoor facilities and designed into newer facilities.

"That is a technology we hope would work. And, it is working," Griffiths said, adding that a technology also exists that has slower filtration rates. "The slower we filter the better off we are because it allows more time for the filter to catch the dirt."

The MAHC "qualifies UV and ozone as 'secondary sanitizers'," Arko added, "which may add an additional layer of safety to a facility. The addition of a filter enhancement clarifier to help remove pathogenic microbes quickly and efficiently is also highlighted."

Developments in water treatment include UV pool sanitizers being added, particularly at older indoor facilities and designed into newer facilities.

Other trends include standard filtration from particle removal and pathogen removal, as well as air quality.

"You get indoor facilities … and we've seen more and more illnesses associated with air quality, directly reflective of water quality," Sackett said. And, for sure, "a key item is huge bather load, but there's only so much you can do. We've got in the code, some of the combined chlorine disinfection byproducts and water quality issues ..."

"We've targeted some key areas of research associated with chloramines and ventilation," Sackett noted, adding that air quality and ventilation is becoming more of an issue for indoor facilities.

Fecal accidents in pools are another concern, particularly in how long it takes to deactivate the waste.

"That would be a good benefit to having secondary disinfection, a secondary treatment system working there for you all the time. The air quality, bather hygiene, instead of bringing in contaminants, decreases the contamination burden," he said.

But, pool patrons need to do their part, too.

To reduce the amount of contaminants in pools, experts suggest that people shower in cool water, without soap, before entering a public pool.

"We're trying to encourage mandating showers, acknowledging that instead of soapy hot showers, [to rinse off in cool water], but also recognizing that outdoor complexes [are] looking at rinse showers with immediate proximity to a pool," Sackett said.

From a hygiene standpoint at facilities, with diaper age children involved, you don't want diaper changing in and around the pool, either. If you have properly designed diaper changing stations, there should be no issues.

"They have to be properly designed and kept clean. Proper design is important," he said.

Similarly, Beach said there are increased risk venues, especially those that cater to young children. Secondary disinfection is important.

"We have to fix this. We need to start educating the public," Beach added. "A code can only do so much."

It's great to have rinse showers on the side, but the public needs to understand the issues as well.

"It's hard to enforce," Beach said.

But, the code strives to change that.

The idea is to take a classic public health sign that nobody probably looks at and incorporate key ideas on how facilities can use their ingenuity to get the word out about safety.