Supplement Feature - February 2015
Find a printable version here

Change Is in the Air

Managing Healthy Air & Water in Your Aquatic Facility

By Kelli Ra Anderson

Taking Control

Different controllers and testers now on the market that can measure and help manage water and air quality data are one response to the growing complexity of managing commercial pools, and more are on the way.

Digital photometers for water testing, for example, are making testing less of an art and more of a science. "They measure parameters without relying on color matching," said Mike McBride, marketing manager of an industry leader in water testing. "They give an exact digital reading without guessing."

According to Jeff Boynton, director of a leading secondary disinfection systems manufacturer, many more companies are now involved in the reading of more types of controls for determining air and water quality data. Different controls (what they do and how to use them), he said, are a current buzz in the field.

To that end, the NSF has certified systems and equipment to help ensure achieved results, going above and beyond top standards. They also plan to certify water testing devices in the near future to identify those devices that have reached expected levels of precision.

Using a chemical controller tied into a feed pump, for example, to monitor pH and sanitizer levels can make an enormous difference in allowing for small chemical adjustments throughout the day. Using a chlorine test kit to determine if newly purchased chlorine or old chlorine is as potent as required can save a lot of time and money wasted on an ineffective product. Chlorine analysis and water testing is especially important, given that some pool operators have been known to assume clear water means all is well when in fact, TDS levels and other properties are at corrosive levels, or they might assume water is fine based on pH controller values alone. It's a complex business.

Taking the P out of 'Pool'

What isn't complex, however, and what hasn't changed is the main culprit behind many pools' contamination problems: urine and human byproducts. Once thought as relatively benign, albeit undesirable, research now shows that urine contains organic nitrogen compounds that, in combination with disinfectants in pools, create irritating chlorine-like chemicals in the water and the air.

The solution to this age-old problem is similarly simple and straightforward. "I did a huge report for the YMCA eight years ago in Canada, and I told them there is one key and one key only to look at," said Ron Ford, now retired, and author of the NSPF CPO handbook. "Showers. You have to make sure bathers take showers. There's your number-one load going into that environmental system."

Showers and, some would add, bathroom breaks.

But how? Unlike the adage that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink, there are ways of making bathers bathe and take more frequent restroom breaks. According to Lachocki, it starts with staff, ensuring they are trained and know how to adjust operations to discourage what is discretely termed, "voluntary contamination."

He suggests, for example, short adult swim time to encourage kids to take restroom breaks, and having coaches build in 3-minute bathroom breaks 45 minutes into each workout. Policies, too, that prohibit diapered children from accessing areas in or near the pool, and keeping children's pool areas distinctly separate and away from adult swimming areas can minimize unwanted contamination or at least contain it to smaller areas. It is also important to provide lots of signage to direct bathers to bathrooms, which should be conveniently located for their use.

Design goes a long way toward helping, too. Patrons cite too few showers and not enough privacy as major reasons for skipping that vital step. Designing showers that must be entered to access the pool and that provide lots of privacy will certainly encourage bathers to shower more effectively.

Newer facilities include diaper changing areas in a convenient location for caregivers, designed with enough room for additional children and even providing diapers to help deter a frazzled adult from ignoring a child in need of a diaper change.