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Keeping the pool water safe with proper Pool Management

There is a serious side to operating and maintaining high bather load swimming pools and spas such as those in Strata Communities.

An incorrect water balance, poor filtration or insufficient sanitiser can cause bather discomfort, skin irritation, pool staining, dirty water and illness, and lead to potential risk from complaints and worse still litigation.

Do you manage pools that have high bather loads?

  • with a high percentage of use by children below five years of age?
  • with a water turnover time in excess of six hours?
  • wading pools, spas or hydrotherapy pools?
  • with shared filtration and water circulation systems?

If you answer “yes” to any of the above questions, you may have specific areas of high risk that could benefit from the adoption of a structured approach for pool management.
Often the swimming pool plant and equipment and the water management regimes in place can’t cope with the extreme demands of peak periods and can result in cloudy unhealthy water.

Having routine maintenance programs in place like checking pool pumps, seals and gaskets, chemically cleaning the filter and correctly balancing the water, can not only save thousands of dollars on costly repairs and excess chemicals, but ensures your system can cope with these extremes. Daily maintenance regimes are essential to ensure a continued healthy swimming environment.

All people who use high bather load swimming pools and spas are susceptible to infection. These pools are more likely to be contaminated with disease causing organisms than domestic swimming pools because they are open to community contamination.

Contamination can come from many sources but are mainly associated with bathers. These organisms may be brought into a pool on a bather’s skin, and in their saliva, urine and faeces. The organisms may also be introduced from dust, bird droppings, make-up water and soil carried on bathers’ feet.

The type of infections that are often caused from inadequately treated pool water (or surrounding surfaces) can range from eye, ear and skin infections through to more serious gastrointestinal illnesses. Some of these disease causing organisms live and may even grow in pool and spa water unless the pool water is properly and continuously disinfected.

Doing regular water tests and taking note of any changes in the pool water clarity can help you manage potential problems. The clarity of the pool water is a fail-proof indication that something is not quite right. Cloudy water or dullness is a clear sign that some sort of treatment is required.

Although chlorine is an effective disinfectant, it does not instantly kill all nasty bugs, some organisms, such as the parasite Cryptosporidium, are highly resistant to chlorine concentrations routinely used in pools.

The disinfectant form of chlorine is “free residual chlorine.” It is also known as “free available chlorine” or “free chlorine” It is strong and safe when used properly and is still the most popular form of disinfection.

Free residual chlorine can also oxidise ammonia, some other organic compounds and some organic nitrogen introduced into the pool by urine or perspiration. Free chlorine however can combine with ammonia to form compounds, known as chloramines. It is these chloramines that contribute to the cloudiness and the strong odour that is often noticeable in high bather load pools. They cause eye stinging and reduces the ability of chlorine to disinfect.

Chloramines are also known as “combined residual chlorine” and should be kept to a minimum. This is done by adding more chlorine (or an alternative product) to oxidise them over a period of time without bathers in the pool. This treatment process is often referred to as oxidising, super chlorinating or shocking.

Another important factor to consider when managing these pools is that the higher the pH above 7 the less the disinfection power of free chlorine. pH needs to be properly controlled in a swimming pool and spa pool when chlorine is used, and automatic adjustment is recommended to levels between 7.2 and 7.8.

To maintain healthy clear water in high bather situations, the swimming pool or spa pool needs to be designed and operated to enhance the action of the disinfectant.

The installation and use of automatic disinfectant dosing systems and pH correction systems using automatic controllers receiving feedback information from chemical sensing probes, however, are strongly recommended.

Some simple checks that will assist with effective pool management:

  • Ensure all equipment is running correctly
  • Ensure all equipment is appropriately sized for the pool volume and bather load
  • Ensure there are no areas of poor pool circulation (i.e., “dead spots”)
  • Encourage patrons to practice healthy swimming practices
    • Improved hygiene before and during swimming (e.g., showering,
    • toilet breaks for young children, (and appropriate nappy changing)
    • refrain from swimming while ill with diarrhoea and
    • avoid swallowing pool water.

It is recommended that pool operators/managers develop a pool management plan, that incorporates the principles outlined in this document, that automatic chemical monitoring and dosing systems are installed, and records of water quality testing are maintained for at least a two-year period.

This article was contributed by Chris Booth, Commercial Development Executive – Poolwerx

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