Feature Article - April 2018
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Expanding Pools of Knowledge

Control Maintenance Costs Without Sacrificing Safety

By Rick Dandes

Ongoing Maintenance Requirements

The best maintenance plan is one that follows the manufacturer's and pool designer-engineer's recommendations for all equipment.

A preventive maintenance plan is a necessary and important part of any aquatic facility operation based on data showing 22.8 percent of pool chemical-related events were due to equipment failure—indicating they could have been prevented, noted Douglas Sackett, executive director, Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code, Decatur, Ga.

The best maintenance plan is one that follows the manufacturer's and pool designer-engineer's recommendations for all equipment. A pool maintenance plan is similar in many ways to the purchase of a new vehicle, Sackett explained. With the purchase of a new vehicle, a manufacturer's maintenance schedule is included. The schedule lists the maintenance items that should be followed such as rotating tires and performing major tune-ups. Likewise, the qualified operator should perform an inventory of all equipment used in the aquatic facility operation. For each piece of equipment, the operator should develop a list and schedule of maintenance items. By following this maintenance schedule, the operator can help prevent costly repairs and breakdowns in the future. Replacing items before they break down may prevent system breakdowns that could lead to outbreaks or injuries. For example, a common breakdown leading to loss of disinfection is a break in the tubing leading from feed pumps to the recirculation system. Although inexpensive, lack of replacement has been implicated in outbreaks.

"We do a round of maintenance every day," said Lathrop. "Yes, it is highly standardized for pools. Having a preventive maintenance check list is a good idea. There is a lot that can go wrong with a pool system, and having that list for a technician is a good way of having them look at everything, even if they are not an expert on everything."

DeRosa suggested some specific maintenance requirements, all of which he deemed "critical." Maintain sanitizer levels (chlorine and pH) at all times, he said. "Lack of sanitizer levels is the number one reason that health departments will shut down a swimming pool. Also, maintain water balance.

"Balanced water contributes to water clarity, as well as longevity of equipment," DeRosa said. "Operators should test pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness and temperature levels and make adjustments as needed. While certain states have established acceptable ranges for balance chemicals, operators should strive to be within the ideal ranges whenever possible."

For those states that do not have state-specific pool regulations, he continued, operators should refer to the MAHC for guidance. Typically, most pool operators will find that at normal water temperatures, 78 to 84 degrees, water will be balanced when pH is maintained at 7.2 to 7.4, alkalinity is maintained at about 100ppm and calcium hardness is maintained at about three times total alkalinity levels, about 300ppm.

Avoid backwashing sand filters too frequently, DeRosa advised. "Backwashing, the process of cleaning sand filters by reversing the flow of water, can discharge to waste a large volume of water. This increases water replacement costs and necessitates adding additional sanitizing chemicals to adequately treat the newly added water. In pools that are heated, the addition of cold water will also increase heating expenses. Moreover, sand filters become more effective at capturing fine particulate matter after a period of use rather than immediately upon backwashing."

Stainless-steel surfaces should be cleaned daily by wiping the surface down with a clean, wet cloth, not pool water, followed by a wipe-down with a clean, dry cloth. This helps wash off any chemicals that may contribute to surface corrosion. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for daily or weekly cleaning. If using UV disinfection, DeRosa said, monitor dosage levels and schedule maintenance when dosage levels approach lower limits of desired dosages.

Problem Indicators

Smell: Have you ever walked into a hotel, and after you sniff the air a few times you conclude they must have a pool? The bulk of that smell, Lachocki said, "… is the result of chlorine reacting with contaminants in the water. We can't prevent perspiration from getting into the water because a human being sweats. But we can reduce the amount of skin cells and cosmetics that come off a person by asking them to take a shower before they get into the water."

Lack of sanitizer levels is the number one reason that health departments will shut down a swimming pool.

The one thing that is the biggest contributor to that smell is contaminants from urine, Lachocki said. "And that is absolutely preventable. The NSPF has created inexpensive posters that operators can post on entranceways to the pool, just to remind people that by using the restroom, they are helping improve the water and air quality.

Now, what happens if you don't do that? he asked. You have customers getting that noxious smell, you have kids' eyes getting red in the pool, and you create a negative experience. Ultimately, it leads to reduced revenue. Why would someone come back to such a facility?

"The question then is what can you do to help reduce that? I'm an idealist," Lachocki said, "but I don't think by putting in signage you'll eliminate everyone from peeing in the pool. Still, the treatment systems in there will reduce those noxious elements in the water that goes into the air. If you can decrease the number of people peeing in the pool, you improve water quality and air quality, and why wouldn't you do that? Spending $20 on some signs to post them just seems like a no-brainer."