Feature Article - April 2019
Find a printable version here

Keep Your Head Above Water

Proper Pool Maintenance Procedures

By Dave Ramont

A swimming pool full of clean, sparkling water is a beautiful thing to behold. It looks pristine, serene and, best of all if you're a pool operator, it looks inviting. But there's very little margin for error when it comes to keeping that pool looking inviting and operating flawlessly. Mechanical systems, chemical and water levels and cleaning protocol are all factors that need to work in tandem, and staying on top of these things is a never-ending job, even when the pool is closed.

"Routine maintenance helps keep equipment operating safely. Regular inspection and servicing of pool equipment can help prevent equipment failure, which could otherwise cause injury. Failing to maintain a strong maintenance program can also result in higher financial exposure, such as with increased equipment repair or replacement costs, lost income from facility closures and expenses incurred because of injuries sustained," said Shawn DeRosa, former aquatics director at Penn State. He's also a water safety expert and owner of DeRosa Aquatic Consulting, a Florida-based company specializing in customized training for aquatic professionals and lifeguards.

Commercial pools must adopt strict maintenance agendas to keep things running smoothly and to head off major problems before they happen. Kevin Post, a former aquatics director and a principal at Counsilman-Hunsaker, said there are three main goals of a pool maintenance plan. "These goals include preventing breakdowns, identifying the cause of any problems and establishing corrective measures or procedures to minimize or prevent those issues from happening in the future."

Post said that while many facilities do have proper maintenance plans, others are lacking. "Pools should have a daily, weekly, monthly, annual and seasonal maintenance list."

"Facilities should carefully follow the manufacturers' recommended maintenance and operations procedures, which often explain the steps needed to keep equipment working properly," Derosa said. He agrees that well-run aquatic facilities need regular maintenance routines, and suggested some of the things that should be addressed daily: brush or vacuum the pool; monitor chemicals and adjust as needed; monitor flow rate and filter pressures and consider whether filters should be cleaned or backwashed to avoid issues with water clarity; replace water lost by splashout or evaporation; rinse and dry all stainless steel at the end of the day; conduct any required attraction inspections, such as daily slide inspections.

To keep pool water safe, it should be properly circulated and filtered. Therefore, the pump and filter are of utmost importance.

Some weekly routines that DeRosa suggested include: calculate water balance (Langlier Saturation Index) and adjust calcium hardness and total alkalinity levels as needed to keep water "in balance"; test cyanuric acid levels; inspect peripheral deck equipment and secure any loose bolts; conduct any required bacteriological testing.

Facilities follow their own seasonal opening and closing procedures, and should also have annual routines, such as annual filter cleaning. DeRosa explained how oils and organic matter can accumulate in filter media, negatively impacting filtration. "An annual cleanse, such as by soaking sand in a chemical designed to remove oils, should be incorporated into the maintenance regimen."

He also said that pump impellers should be inspected annually for damage. "Worn impellers result in decreased flow rates, which will impact turnover times and could contribute to cloudy water. Motors should be serviced annually to ensure they operate at peak performance."

The Apex Centre in McKinney, Texas, includes four pools: an indoor leisure pool with play structures and a river channel; an indoor competition pool; an outdoor kiddie pool; and an outdoor leisure pool with many extra amenities. This means there are four separate filtration systems. Ryan Mullins, assistant director of Parks and Recreation for the city of McKinney, described a few things on their regular maintenance checklist: "All slides are inspected before opening to the public. Filters are monitored daily. Safety equipment is inspected daily. HVAC, pool heaters, UV systems and other equipment is maintained per manufacturer's specifications, to include preventive maintenance and annual maintenance."

At the Homewood Community Center in Homewood, Ala., there's an eight-lane, 25-yard outdoor competition and leisure pool, as well as a play pool with spray features. Jakob Stephens, athletic coordinator for Homewood Parks and Recreation, said they check chemicals, filters, motors and water levels daily. Lifeguards also have a daily checklist, as well as certain tasks that are performed every three or four days. Some of their duties include backwashing, vacuuming, cleaning scum lines on tile and cleaning the hair catcher.

"During the season, I personally check pumps, filters and chemicals at least once a day myself," Stephens said. "During the off-season I'll check things a few times a week and one of our part-time employees will check them daily. During the winter months we continue to treat our water because it's cheaper than letting it turn green and having to start over each year with new water."