Feature Article - November 2021
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So Fresh, So Clean

Keys for Improving Air and Water Quality in Indoor Pools

By Chris Gelbach

A Systems Approach

Kappel expressed frustration that in many cases, there remains a separation between the systems responsible for the air and water quality in many indoor aquatic facilities that often begins in the design phase—and no communication between the people who put the separate systems in.

"The pool designs and the building design, where the air handler resides, are usually two separate design firms," Kappel said. "They're not talking, right from the start … We're set up to fail in that there are two separate design firms that have no purpose to talk to each other—the integrator component is missing from the middle."

This separation can also create problems throughout the facility's operation. Bevard noted the example of one facility In Mississippi where the pool recirculation pumps were slowed down with the sole purpose of reducing energy consumption. "Obviously, the water chemistry went in the toilet until that was discovered, but that was done and the pool operator wasn't involved in that decision," Bevard said.

Currently available technologies allow these systems to instead work together to improve both the air and water quality—if the integration is allowed to happen. "If you're monitoring combined chlorine in the water, you can have a feedback loop that ramps up the UV system if necessary, or changes HVAC system settings or even potentially enters a purge mode if requested," Bevard said. "Those technologies do exist."

Kappel likewise noted that these technologies can do things like ramp up the fan speeds and outside air dampers to bring more fresh air in in real time — and recreation managers can help make it happen by getting the HVAC and pool designers together at the onset of the project.

"I think it's up to the facility, to operators, to go ahead and facilitate that dialogue, and I think that's the key right there because it is not happening with new design even to this day," Kappel said. "At the end of the day, they're the ones paying everybody and they're the customers and they should put some demands on what they actually want to see happening."

Control and Monitoring

Luecker noted that while chemical controllers have been around since the 1970s, there have been huge advancements in the things they can monitor. "They do a lot more facility monitoring than they used to, and it's huge because you can't stay abreast of the changes that are happening as they happen in your pool water by trying to dose it once an hour or every three hours," Luecker said. "The controller turns that pump on and off based on need and demand, and the demands on a 100-degree day when you have 400 kids jumping in your pool is different than a cloudy day with 12 people in your pool."

Fowler noted that some states require that facilities log in their chemical record more than once a day. "But if you have a facility that's open all day and fully loaded, you might want to have someone just keep eyes on those things at least two to three times a day at minimum just to make sure things don't get out of balance," he said.

He also noted that if your budget doesn't allow for you to spring for a chemical controller, UV or ozone system or other helpful technology now, they can be added later. "There are always ways you can add things after the fact," Fowler said. "Just start slow, do something. But the main thing here is just to make sure you're maintaining your proper level of your chemicals."

Luecker agreed, noting that a supplemental disinfection system is helpful. "If you don't have one, you should contemplate adding that, particularly on an indoor pool," Luecker said. "And if your circulation system, pump filter or chlorination system is deficient in any way, then you should work to address that …Try to find the items that are most deficient to fix first and then add the supplemental things as you go on. Supplemental disinfection isn't going to solve a filtration problem."

To assist with the everyday basics like proper chemical usage, Luecker recommends training courses for pool operators such as the Certified Pool Operator (CPO) and the Aquatic Facility Operator (APO) programs. But experts admit that it's tough for facilities coming off pandemic-required facility closures.

"Preventive maintenance is the biggest key, and nowadays with staff reductions and the inability to hire folks and staffing shortages, I'm afraid that preventive maintenance has really taken a back seat and a lot of it is reactive maintenance," Kappel said.

When the equipment is properly maintained, problems are rare. "If you're being proactive and getting things changed up, the unit will never go down, unless it's some kind of very odd occurrence," he added.

Today's technologies and products are up to the task of ensuring better air and water quality. But operator competence and user courtesy play a huge role not only in making aquatic centers fun places to be, but clean and healthy ones too. RM