Feature Article - July 2018
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Come On In, The Water's Fine!

Effective Systems to Maintain Water Quality

By Deborah L. Vence

In a blog post that Post wrote on chemical treatment options for commercial pools, he stated, for example, that "Sodium hypochlorite (liquid chlorine) is approximately 12 percent free available chlorine. Sodium hypochlorite must be stored in a covered tank and a room that is ventilated to the exterior. Liquid bleach is a mild hazard. It is relatively reactive with acidic chemicals and organics.

"Calcium hypochlorite tablets are placed in canisters and pool water is bypassed through the erosion feeders, dissolving the tablets and introducing chlorinated water back into the pool. Clogging with the feeders was an issue in the past, but most of those issues have now been resolved through design.

"Bromine gained interest in the early '90s as a replacement for chlorine. Twice the bromine is required to reach the same oxidation potential of chlorine. Bromine is a much less aggressive oxidizer compared to chlorine. It doesn't combine with organics, therefore, chloramines are not produced which cause the smell in a natatorium. There are claims that bromine is less irritating to swimmers."

Contributing Factors

Besides chemical causes, there are some other factors that can contribute to pool water problems, including air circulation and debris.

"One of the main issues that we have with pools is attempting to have proper air handling in indoor pools," Hefter said. "If we do not have proper air circulation we end up with chloramines in the water, which will erode facility equipment and surfaces. Making sure that the water is balanced works to ensure that our facility and equipment lasts as well. Water that is not balanced and that is corrosive or scaling can impact every aspect of your pool."

Keeping pool water clean and clear consist of ensuring that you are constantly and properly filtering the water, keeping chemicals within the appropriate ranges as well as vacuuming out debris from the pool.

"Consistent maintenance of your pool through proper water balance, vacuuming and constant testing will ensure that your facility lasts as long as possible. Improper water balance can affect all aspects of your pool facility and equipment," Hefter said.

For example, she said, "equipment within your facility can become corroded over time and the costs for replacement parts could have a huge impact on your budget."

Meanwhile, water balance is another area of water quality that is commonly overlooked.

"A properly balanced pool will optimize the disinfection process," Post said. "Water balance looks at five factors of the pool: pH, temperature, calcium hardness, alkalinity and total dissolved solids (TDS). The pH of the water also has a tremendous impact on water quality. The pH impacts the effectiveness of the disinfection process as well as helps with water clarity."

Minimizing the amount of debris in the pool can help, too, and regular vacuuming of the pool floor should be part of any facility's maintenance plan.

Consistent maintenance of your pool through proper water balance, vacuuming and constant testing will ensure that your facility lasts as long as possible.

"It's also important to make sure the deck is clean as that debris will find its way into the pool. The use of pool covers will help overnight, but the users will track dirt and debris in throughout the day," Post said, adding that when designing a facility, it's important to keep the area immediately around the pool free of landscaping as this can find its way into the pool, too.

In response to additional contributing factors to water quality, Lachocki noted an old joke: "A patient goes in to the doctor and says, 'Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this.' The doctor responds, 'Don't do that.' That's our situation. No one likes the pain of red eyes and irritated skin. Ironically, we are the cause of that pain. We need to stop doing that. The science has become ironclad. Urine is the largest avoidable contributor to the formation of that noxious chloramine odor commonly detected in pools.

"The urea from urine reacts with chlorine in the water to form organic chloramines. The organic chloramines break down over a week to form inorganic chloramines that evaporate and are detected as that noxious chlorine-like odor," he said. "The organic and inorganic chloramines are irritating whether they are in the water or in the air. Thus, chemicals in urine react with chlorine to form the chemicals that give us red eyes and irritated skin."

He said there is an old myth that there's a chemical that turns red when someone pees in the pool.

"It turns out it's not a myth. When someone pees in the pool, the chloramines make our kids' eyes turn red," he said, adding that there also is compelling scientific evidence that even a quick rinse shower removes contaminants that hurt water and air quality. "Longer warm showers with soap and water are better."

Yet, some sources of contamination can't be avoided.

"We can't stop contaminants from the air or environment from getting in the water. We can't stop perspiration," he added. "However, we have some simple tips that can reduce urine, improve water quality and prevent red eyes."