Feature Article - April 2015
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Pool Procedures Overview

Expert Tips on Maintaining a Safe, Healthy and Sustaining Swimming Pool

By Rick Dandes

Proper maintenance and operation of pools, and the disinfection of pool water, can play a key role in preventing most safety hazards in pools and ensuring the health and enjoyment of poolside visitors and swimmers. Those hazards, however, can be subtle, and exist in a myriad of forms, said Steve Little, CEO of a Palm Desert, Calif.-based swimming pool maintenance firm.

Little described some of those hazards: They can be physical, he said, requiring pools to be maintained and operated in a way that prevents injuries to all visitors. This means operators need to be supplied with equipment in case of an emergency. There can be chemical hazards, meaning the solutions used to clean pool water need to be stored safely and used correctly. And finally, there are microbial hazards, such as bacteria (for example, pseudomonas, which causes skin infection known as "hot tub rash" or E. coli, which can cause stomach illness), viruses like Adenovirus (pink eye) or hepatitis A (causing stomach virus), fungi, such as tinea pedis (tied to Athlete's foot) and parasites such as cryptosporidium and giardia (both can cause stomach illness).

Maintenance Best Practices

Helping to keep a pool safer and open starts with a trained and certified staff, said Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, based in Colorado Springs, Colo. Management practices and technology make trained staff better, but can't replace knowledgeable staff, he said.

To that end, Little explained, "There is an analysis I do on every pool my company touches, and that analysis is a safety inspection, first before anything else. How safe and aware are pool owners of the fact that pools are the number-one killer of children under 5 in the United States? Are the operators aware of how quick drowning is? And once that awareness is accomplished, is the pool and spa efficient? Is it using energy in a manner that is sustainable to our environment and sustainable to the pool owners, in terms of their utility bills?

After that, Little said, "I go look at it and see how it is kept. Are the plumbing subsystems, electrical and mechanical subsystems current to current building code? Are they going to work? Are they going to sustain use of the pool? Because as maintenance experts, our goal is to have the pool ready when the people who come to the pool are ready to use it."

So, what kind of steps need to be taken regularly by staff to maintain the pool, to keep it performing like new?

People typically are very familiar with the board of health requirements regarding their pool chemistry, and much of that now is automated, observed Jason Mart, president of an Indianapolis-based company that designs and builds new and renovated pools. But generally, a monthly inspection of your equipment room and the whole environs around the pool is necessary.

Proper maintenance and operation of pools, and the disinfection of pool water, can play a key role in preventing most safety hazards in pools.

"Evaluating whether you have corrosion buildup and whether you've got various wear. Check to see if chemicals seem to be interacting with the substrate. That is an inspection that can be done monthly or quarterly, but it should be regularly done," he said.

Make general inspections with particular attention to watching your metal components, particularly if you have dialectic conditions; where two different types of metals join together, there can be visible corrosion.

Most equipment at pools is used until it fails, but it is a good idea to replace your pump every 3 to 5 years, Mart contends. A good strategy, he said, is to buy a spare pump motor and have that stored out of the pool room. It's a smart thing to do because after your pump motor fails, finding the right size motor to drive the pump in the exact same voltage and amperage power output can be difficult and could take several days. If you have a spare you can swap them out when one fails and have the other one rebuilt and then it becomes your spare. "This strategy helps avoid downtime," Mart said.