Feature Article - November 2019
Find a printable version here

The Air in There

Managing Air Quality in Aquatic Facilities

By Joe Bush

Mike Fowler, commercial sales manager for a Minnesota-based water treatment company, said there are "do" and "don't" basics for aquatic facility operators to consider:

>>  Do add UV or ozone to a system to achieve greater success in elimination of chloramines and provide a better swimming experience for members or guests.

>>  Do not think automated chemical controllers or systems are "install and walk away." Inspect the systems periodically and properly maintain them to make sure they're doing their jobs.

>>  Do not let a small issue with equipment or chemical balance turn into a larger problem that may result in pool closures.

Richard LaMotte, vice president of sales and marketing for a Maryland-based water analysis company, added a few fundamentals of his own:

>>  Never let pool operators skip testing critical test factors and rely solely on automation.

>>  Online automation is helpful, but even a small power outage has led to hazardous water conditions in the past.

>>  Always use DPD to test free and total chlorine to determine chloramine issues—virtually all U.S. states require this methodology.

>>  Make sure all pool operators are tested for color-blindness or are using a colorimeter rather than analyzing water by guessing at colors.

>>  Check expiration dates every month on your test reagents.

>>  Make sure ventilation levels meet or exceed local code requirements.

>>  Find ways to encourage swimmers to shower before entering.

"Many of the chloramine compounds that lead to odors and irritation could be reduced by quick showers prior to entry," LaMotte explained.

Of course, not all aquatic facilities are created and used equally, said Kevin Post, a principal at aquatics facility consulting and design firm Counsilman-Hunsaker. Waterparks have shallower water and more kids, and more kids means more likelihood of urine and feces. There are jets and sprays and agitators as well, so it's an environment in which chloramines are created rapidly and are thrown into the air.

In lap pools, the water's calmer, users aren't breaking the surface as much, there's no spraying water, and swimmers are primarily adults. Chloramines don't form as quickly, nor are those formed being agitated.

"So it's really a demand balance," Post said. "All have a different requirement for pool water treatment as well as the air treatment."

Post said all use the same basics—chlorine in the water and some sort of pH buffer like a CO2 or acid to keep that pH within health code ranges. He said the MAHC has recommendations for secondary disinfection and secondary sanitation.

"For what (the MAHC) considers high-risk pools like wading pools with a high risk of crypto outbreak because of diapers, and therapy pools, it wants UV added," he said. "UV also helps destruct the chloramines, it will kill the viruses and protozoa like crypto, but it also destructs chloramines. For indoor waterparks, you're going to put UV in every body of water. For an indoor university pool, it would help but you can get away without it."

The amount of water per bather matters as well, said Post. If you put 50 kids in a pool with 50 gallons, that's only 1 gallon per kid. If you have 10 high school lap swimmers in a million-gallon Olympic pool, that's 100,000 gallons per person.

"If you're diluting everything greater you don't need to treat it as quickly," said Post.

Brett Steinbrueck, president of a Missouri-based water chemistry controller company, said chlorine and pH are the essential factors that need to be monitored and managed. If pH levels aren't right, the chlorine is not as effective, but today's facilities need much more than managing that most basic of calculations.