Supplement Feature - February 2018
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Healthy Air, Healthy Water

Best Practices to Keep Patrons & Staff Healthy

By Rick Dandes

Best Practices: Air Quality

Any discussion of air quality in an indoor pool facility begins with building design, and having the proper air flow devices, such a dehumidifiers. "When you think about it," said Arko, "a pool is somewhat of an engineering feat because you are taking equipment, materials, plasters, concrete, and putting thousands upon thousands of water into that. All of this is subject to corrosion, subject to hydrolysis, and subject to dissolution from the water and the chemical mix."

Then, you enclose the pool in a building, in a vacuum, and have to deal with factors like humidity control, proper ventilation and how the air is going to be distributed properly.

Older indoor facilities face a challenge, if they are recirculating the air on the inside of the facility but not pulling that frigid air from outside. "They are running the same air back through the system," Arko said. "They are pulling the humidity out of the air with the dehumidifier, but they are not improving the air quality."

There are air circulation regulations, explained Jason Mart, president, of an Indianapolis-based commercial pool renovation and construction company, "but until recently there really hasn't been much attention paid to how the pool's disinfectant byproducts, and chloramines can be removed from the structure. The traditional approach has been to take the chloramines and disinfectants—all those 'yucky' gases—and diffuse them by bringing in a lot of outside air. But you are really not getting rid of them. And so what I suggest with the bad air is to sweep it out of the building."

That, too, can pose challenges in older facilities. Air handling systems, because of design constraints 30 years ago, are typically undersized relative to their cousins in facilities being built today, said Richard Deakin, an expert in product development with a London, (Ontario), Canada pool manufacturing company. "Today," he said, "you'd see a completely different air handling system. A majority of our approaches in these older facilities serve as Band-Aids at best until facility owners address the air-handling process in the equation. Because if we are not removing that material, regardless of the amount that we reduce effectively from that environment, we're back in the same boat."

Yes, in older facilities that is a huge problem, Arko agreed: "the design of the air flow, the air ducts, understanding evaporation rates, temperatures in the facility, and again the pool chemistry." He added, "When talking about humidity, you want a good dehumidifier in the building, something that is going to maintain about a 50 to 60 percent relative humidity. High humidity is bad. That is bad for the building, the structure, and is going to be uncomfortable to your patrons. It can create mold and mildew problems."

The NSPF recommends about six to eight air changes per hour in a pool facility. If there is mechanical cooling of the building that will be four to six air changes per hour.

Proper movement of air across the water is also key because of potential chloramine buildup that tends to settle at the surface of the pool—exactly where people are swimming and breathing. You want to ensure that those gases are being broken up, and moved by good air circulation close to the water level.

The Influence of Technology

There are a number of technologies that will help in the battle against chloramines. UV is one of them. "It will not eliminate the problem entirely," Beireis said, "so when you get to a point of super-chlorinating, then you need to rely on your air handling system."

In concert with this, many operators are enlisting large fans, as this helps with airflow and movement to drive the offensive air through your air handlers or through open roofs/windows.

Supplemental systems like ozone, UV, water clarifiers and electronic controllers can be valuable tools to improve system performance, added Bokowy. "They are not, however, an answer for everything. These systems can offer specific performance benefits to address specific problems in your aquatic facility. It is important to research all of these options and understand what value they might provide to your specific environment."

Technology is indeed helping with all these issues, explained Steve White, a Certified Pool and Spa Operator, Instructor and Inspector, and the owner of Underwater Pool Masters, West Boylston, Mass. "Instead of just using the oxidizer and the sanitizer," White said, "we have UV lights, which can be used to kill elements in the pool that we are trying to remove, which the chlorine and bromine can do, but it's supplemental. In the process, the UV gives us less reaction because most of the things are eliminated earlier in the system, as the water goes through the plumbing. Most modern pools will use UV. Ozone is an excellent oxidizer, and also can contribute to the elimination of some of those reaction gases that occur."