The beauty about working in the aquatic industry is learning about all of the information and various components involved in the operation of a pool. It is a natural assumption that there is a hole in the ground and this perfect, pristine body of water is waiting to cool swimmers on a hot day. In actual fact, pool operation can be likened to learning a new language when it comes to the complexity of properly servicing and maintaining this water for people to enjoy.
For instance, there are hundreds of variables that differ for each application and need to be closely supervised to ensure there is no interruption in the pool’s operation, while at the same time safeguarding patrons. The most important component, which can be easily overlooked and can have the biggest impact on the longevity of the pool’s lifecycle, is the basic preventive maintenance practices that need to be policed and properly scheduled.
A small leak, for example, that is not attended to could result in a major leak only hours or days after it starts. If it is not repaired properly, it can result in pool closures and a hefty bill for the owner. It is important every aquatic facility has a schedule of daily, weekly, and monthly preventive maintenance practices in place to ensure the most optimal pool operation for years to come.
WHAT IS PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE?
Preventive maintenance refers to routine upkeep to ensure pool equipment continues to operate efficiently, whereby preventing any unanticipated downtime and the associated costs from equipment failure. It requires vigilant planning and scheduling of maintenance for equipment before there is an actual problem, as well as keeping accurate records of past inspections and servicing reports. Maintenance includes parts replacement, cleaning, tests, and chemical adjustments.
WHAT SHOULD A PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE PROGRAM LOOK LIKE?
Preventive maintenance involves the regular inspection of equipment where potential problems are detected and corrected before it fails. In practice, a preventive maintenance schedule may include things such as cleaning, water testing and chemical adjustments, repairs, inspections, replacing parts, and overhauls that are regularly scheduled, such as filter sand changes. This is why it is imperative that daily, weekly, and monthly checks are completed and recorded.
These inspections should involve much more than simply performing routine maintenance on the pool’s mechanical equipment and water chemistry. It should also entail keeping accurate records of every inspection, water test, and repair, as well as knowing the life expectancy of each part to understand the replacement and maintenance requirements. These records can help technicians anticipate a suitable time to change parts and can also help them to diagnose problems when they occur. If this due diligence is not followed, service interruptions will happen, resulting in downtime to resolve the problem at hand.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Aside from protecting the owner’s investment, and ensuring their pool is operating to the best of its ability, preventive maintenance offers a number of other benefits, including:
Prolonged life of pool and spa equipment;
Minimal unplanned downtime caused by equipment failure;
Less unnecessary maintenance and inspections;
Fewer errors in day-to-day operations;
Improved reliability of equipment;
Fewer expensive repairs caused by unexpected equipment failure that must be fixed quickly; and
Reduced risk of injury.
In addition to being diligent with maintenance, there are also health and building codes that provide a guide for proper daily operation. These are enforced by inspectors to ensure the pool and spa environment is safe for bathers and the laws are being followed.
There are several simple maintenance procedures that can be easily overlooked, but without the proper attention, it can lead to major complications down the road if they are not completed.
PRIORITY MAINTENANCE PLAN
The heart of the pool is the filtration pump—without it the water would not be circulated through the filter, heater, or sanitization system, creating a potential health hazard for bathers. It is critical that regular checks and maintenance are completed on the pumps to avoid cloudy water, or even prevent an unexpected closure due to mechanical failure.
Simple things like cleaning the strainer basket (daily for an outdoor application and weekly for an indoor application) can have a drastic impact on the overall efficiency of the mechanical system. If the strainer basket is not cleaned regularly, a ‘load’ is put on the pump, forcing it to work harder to circulate the water that needs to be filtered, heated, and chemically treated before it is sent back to the pool. The harder the pump has to work, the more wear-and-tear is put on it. As a result, this can lead to mechanical seal failure, water clarity issues, as well as impact the overall performance of the entire system.
If maintenance is not completed regularly, the pump will fail and force a closure until it can be repaired or replaced. The water can become cloudy, increasing the amount of additional labour and chemicals required to get the pool back up and running. By completing simple pool maintenance, owners can improve the overall longevity of their investment.
DO NOT SKIMP ON SKIMMING
In a pool, the first 152 mm (6 in.) of water is the most contaminated. This makes the skimmer or surface water circulation (if applicable) an essential component to preventive maintenance. The powerful pull of the pump leads water into the filter; once dirt has been removed, it is heated, chemically treated, and returned to the pool through the returns.
Pool owners/operators should ensure the baskets inside the skimmers are cleaned regularly as part of a daily routine maintenance program. These baskets are used to catch debris on the surface while also protecting the pump. If the baskets are not cleaned regularly, they will become clogged with debris such as leaves, band aids, and other common waste found in pools.
This blockage will result in an additional ‘load’ being placed on the pump, forcing it to work harder to circulate the pool water and increasing the stress on the equipment.
CHECKS AND BALANCES
Physical pool care is integral to a maintenance program, but one should not discount the importance of water chemistry. Although it is not visible to the eye (in some cases), water care is a priority in any maintenance plan.
If there is an inconsistency in water treatment, there can be considerable consequences. When it comes to the chemical parameters that need to be monitored, they all have an impact; however, one of the most important and commonly neglected is calcium hardness. This water parameter measures the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the pool to determine how hard or soft the water is. It is important to keep the calcium hardness balanced to prevent the water from becoming corrosive or cause scaling.
The nature of calcium hardness has massive ramifications if it is neglected, as the acidic component can impact the longevity of a pool’s structure and mechanical system. All municipalities have a different measure of source water, and because freshwater needs to be added daily, a good preventive maintenance program should include logs of routine water test results.
When the calcium hardness is low, it has an acidic effect on the system. Simply put, it is a form of acid that slowly eats away at the pool finish causing it to slowly deteriorate. This acidity can sometimes become lost in other chemical parameters, but can easily become the culprit if not checked and balanced regularly.
On the other end of the spectrum, when calcium hardness is high, scaling can occur and will be visible along the waterline tile. Behind the scenes, the calcium build-up will also be present in the plumbing. If the calcium hardness remains high for too long, it will eventually cause obstructions in the pool piping. This will cause closures and require costly mechanical retrofits to resolve the problem. This additional cost and inconvenience can be avoided by simply adding a calcium hardness check to the pool’s regular maintenance routine.
LEAVE IT TO THE EXPERTS
There are several components that impact the overall longevity of a pool and its operation; however, an experienced, knowledgeable technician will know the proper preventive measures required to ensure the pool system is running at peak performance.
Neglecting these well-known measures will inevitably impact the pool’s function; therefore, it is of utmost importance for an aquatic facility to not only have a preventative maintenance plan in place, but also ensure it is policed regularly to guarantee a safe and comfortable swimming experience for patrons
The Ontario and other provincial Building Codes have minimum standards that have been established to ensure that new public pools are constructed to be safe and functional. Following construction, Health Departments are responsible for monitoring and regulating the operation of the pool. The entire content of the code is important, but some items really stand out. For example, strict adherence to the velocity of water moving through suction fittings like the main drains is really important. The velocity of water through main drains is dictated as not to exceed 1.5 fps (feet per second). This low velocity helps decrease the possibility that people might become entrapped or entangled by the main drain fitting.
Another really important factor is the turnover rate of the pool. For Class ‘A’ pools (a pool to which the general public is admitted), the entire volume of the pool has to be filtered and chemically treated every four hours. This ‘turnover rate’ provides some assurance that the pool water will be clean and safe for bathers to use. The Building and Health Codes are very important and have elements that work to ensure pools work really well and up to standards, most of the time. As with most rules, there are some exceptions that should be considered. An important question to consider is: When is it a good idea to do more than what the code calls for?
CLASS A & CLASS B POOLS
In Ontario for example, a Class ‘B’ pool (a pool operated on the premises of an apartment building with five or more units, a pool operated as a facility to serve a community of more than five single-family private residences, a pool operated on the premises of a hotel, a pool operated on the premises of a campground, a pool operated in conjunction with, a club or a condominium, a pool operated in conjunction with a day nursery, a day camp or an establishment for the care or treatment of persons who are ill, infirm or aged) is required to be designed in such a way that the circulation system exchanges the entire volume of the pools water once every six hours, or four times per day. Most of the time, this is totally acceptable, but there are times when it is not sufficient. At some resorts for example, the pools are shallow and the volume of water is small. This coupled with a very high usage, warmer water and bathers who may not shower as well as they should (especially children) can create a condition that makes the water quality very difficult to manage. We often oversize the circulation systems with larger than required pumps and filters in this instance and add secondary sanitation systems like UV to help ensure superior water quality.
The same is true of a Class ‘A’ pool. These pools are required to be designed to exchange the water in the pools every four hours or six times per day which seems like a lot, but again there are some exceptions. If the pool is a therapeutic pool with a higher percentage of elderly users, or users with either a physical or mental disability, there may be a higher risk of contamination by fouling, making it prudent to exchange the water more often and install UV systems. For pools like this we often design the mechanical system to exchange the water every two hours, or 12 times per day, or more.
Another important consideration is the filtration rate of the pool filter system. In all cases this is calculated by dividing the total flow of the circulation pump by the total surface area of the pool and is expressed as GPM/FT2 of filter area. For sand filters, most manufacturers call for a filtration rate of no more than 15 GPM/ FT2. For a pool that has a flow rate of 450 GPM, the total sand area should be no less than 450 GPM/ 15 GPM/FT2 = 30 FT2. This square footage can be achieved by either using one or two larger horizontal or vertical filters, or a ‘battery’ of smaller filters. Is a filtration rate of 15 GPM/ ft2 always enough? For a lesser-used pool with a lower-risk user, and a low bather load, the answer is probably yes, but in instances where there is a high bather load, it may make sense to lower the velocity of water through the filter to improve filtration even more. Sometimes it makes sense to oversize the filter so that the filtration rate is more like 12 GPM/ft2. The same thing can be done with other filter media like cartridge filters or DE (diatomaceous earth) filters.
UV SANITATION SYSTEMS
UV is a secondary sanitizer that effectively renders most bacteria unproductive (and therefore safe) as water passes through the device. UV units are not required by code for pools (UV is required for splash pads) or spas, but may be a really good idea to install anyway. Some bacteria are resistant to chlorine or bromine and can become the source of an infectious condition that can make swimmers sick. This can result in a severe and widespread illness outbreak that could have long term effects or even cause the death of a vulnerable individual. There could also be legal implications for the owner/operator of the pool. Even though the codes do not require it, putting UV systems on a high bather load or high risk pool is a smart and proactive change to make.
Finally, the codes are an effective way to improve the overall safety of pools across the community. As with all rules and regulations, not every scenario can be addressed. It is best to look at the particular conditions surrounding your pool and design it appropriately. Since there is no specific ‘rule book’ to help you decide when code requirements should be exceeded, it is best to consult an aquatic consultant or pool builder who has a long record of experience with a variety of public and private pools. These experienced companies will help you design, build or upgrade a pool that is safe and fun for your clientele.
Dive Stands are a great addition to any facility, but of course have inherent dangers and cost a lot of money to replace. Let’s talk about how you can make your dive stand and spring board as safe as possible, and how to protect your investment!
DON'T SLIP UP
The lifeguard staff should check the surface of the springboard to be sufficiently “non-skid” at the beginning of every shift. This should be done with the board wet, to simulate what it is like when in use. If the board is found to be slippery, it should be taken out of service until the issue is resolved. Nobody want to see anyone hurt or to suffer any legal consequences. The owners, supervisors and lifeguard staff could all potentially share a liability if the board were subsequently shown to be unfit for use.
What is in the Making of a Slip?
There are a few reasons that boards can become slippery:
Dirt and body oil from swimmers and sunbathers can collect on the surface of the board, making it slippery just because of the nature of the material (oils) or by filling in the ‘voids’ of the textured surface so that it effectively becomes smoother and therefore more slippery.
Excessive alkalinity or minerals in the water can cause scaling that again renders the textured board smoother, or damages the textured surface.
Wearing, releasing or damage of the textured surface.
How do I Prevent the Board from Becoming Slippery?
Hose the board down with fresh water (not pool water) every day. This will help keep the textured surface free of contamination. Never use a high pressure washer for this; you will shorten the life of the texture by blasting away the aggregate.
Once a month, give the board a good scrubbing wash with a detergent and hot water. This will remove oils and keep the texture in good shape. Always use a soft bristle brush - never stiff.
If there is a hardness buildup, a muriatic acid solution can be used to dissolve the minerals. Remember to exercise all appropriate safety procedures when using muriatic acid!
The Textured Surface is Gone…Now What?
Take the board out of service. It just isn’t worth the risk of continuing to use it. Most commercial manufacturers offer refinishing of commercial boards. Contact your commercial aquatics provider, and they will help arrange shipping and refinishing of your board so it is like new, and back in tr-action!
The manufacturers use a special epoxy to bond the slip resistant material to the board, and the material itself is designed to reduce surface tension so that water doesn’t stand tall on the board. Don’t try to resurface the board yourself. It won’t be as good as the factory does it, and you accept the liability if there is an accident after you put it back into service.
OK…What Else for the Board?
The rubber channels on the underside of the board must be inspected monthly for signs of wear. If they are getting close to being worn out, they should be replaced BEFORE the metal ridges on the underside of the board come into contact with the fulcrum. If left unchecked, the fulcrum AND the board will be damaged!
That’s Great for the Board, but What About the Stand?
The best and easiest thing to do is to rinse the entire stand with clean water at the beginning and end of every day. This is especially important for indoor pools. When the stand cools off at night, warm humid air will condense on the stand and handrails, leaving a chlorine residue on the equipment and cause it to degrade prematurely.
Keep the fulcrum components clean, especially the tracks.
Keep the roller clamp lock nuts, and anti-rattle lock nuts, snug and adjusted for a "no-rattle" clearance.
The two grease fittings of the roller block should be lubricated every 2 weeks. Use "Mystic JT-6" grease and grease gun.
The hinges that hold the board to the stand need 2 drops of oil every 2 weeks. Use lightweight oil as for door hinges.
The carriage bolts that attach the diving board to the hinges should be checked for tightness periodically. The carriage bolt nuts need to be maintained at 110 lbs of torque (You’ll need a small torque wrench to do it properly).
Check all handrail and assembly bolts as part of a quarterly preventative maintenance program to keep everything up to snuff.
The stainless steel components are 304 stainless, which is a good quality material for swimming pool natatoriums, but like all stainless steel is not ‘rust-proof’. If rust does appear:
Clean it immediately with stainless steel cleaner and a cloth.
Rinse with lots of fresh water (never pool water).
Using an anodizing product or even wax as a barrier will help prevent future rust.
Air quality is critical to the prevention of rust on metal components. Good air handling equipment or the addition of a UV system to the pool go a long way toward improving air quality by reducing airborne chloramines.
Comparing James Bond to Pool Bonding may be farfetched, and when thinking about pools, these words would be near the bottom of the list of safety features people may think of. But, like a secret double agent, Pool Bonding acts like an invisible body guard, keeping unsuspecting swimmers safe from the hidden, evil Electrical Shock! And like any good super hero, a trusty side kick is needed, and that’s where “Grounding” comes in. Together, Bonding and Grounding form an invincible super duo, and act as one of the most important aspects to a safe swimming environment when designing and constructing a pool system, secretly keeping the people of the pool safe from the insidious dangers of Electrical Shock.
As mentioned, every Super Hero needs a side kick, and when guarding from harmful electrical currents, this case is no different. “Bonding” and Grounding” each have their own jobs, and each are needed to keep the pool area safe.
BONDING. POOL BONDING.
Bonding’s super power is an important one. It joins all electrical pool components and metal components within five feet of the pool together to a thick copper wire, whether it's a mechanical item such as a recirculation pump, simple deck items such as a grab rail or stanchion post, or even unseen items like reinforcing rod encased within the pools concrete walls, forming a safety loop. This safety loop ensures all items have the same voltage, eliminating the possibility of voltages being transferred from the pool to a swimmer, instead containing them within the safety loop, and directing them back to a panel. If needed, a breaker on the panel will trip, dissipating the harmful current within the loop.
GROUNDING, THE TRUSTY SIDEKICK
Grounding, the trusty, yet just as important sidekick, is also silently keeping the patrons of the pool safe, day after day. Grounding power acts in conjunction with Bonding, using the safety loop created by the bonding process, and adds a connection to the ground. This ground connection ensures that any harmful current within the loop is directed away from the swimmers and into the ground, where it dissipates and disappears harmlessly.
A POWERFUL SUPER DUO
Bonding and Grounding, when properly implemented into the design and construction of a pools system, will continue to act in conjunction with one another, forming one of the most powerful safety duo’s within the pools natatorium, keeping the evil Electrical Shock at bay. Next time you're in a pool, enjoying your swim, listen closely. If you hear a faint tune, it may just be the theme song to the undefeatable super duo of Bonding and Grounding, quietly and courageously continuing the never ending fight with Electrical Shock, keeping the people of the pool safe for years to come!
* This is a guest blog post written by Lee Battams, President of Aqua Plans Aquatic Consultants Inc. The knowledge and experience Lee displays on routine site visits have ensured his clients, including Acapulco Pools, remain confident in his abilities in aquatic design.
2 Resolutions that will Improve Your Aquatic Facility
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
January is the month of resolutions. We plan to live a healthier lifestyle, be more financially responsible, and visit with friends and family more often (among others). But what about our aquatic facilities? Improving safety and becoming more environmentally friendly are two resolutions that your facility can make this and every year. The following are ways that your facility can do both:
PLAY IT SAFE
Safety should always be the highest priority at any facility. Improvements can always be made to increase the safety of your pool staff and patrons.
Stay up to date on new changes in codes and policies.
Ensure your staff is equipped and trained on the proper regulations and requirements.
Train your staff (pool managers, lifeguards, operators etc.) in the basics of commercial pool operating and general swimming pool knowledge. This includes chemical testing, accident prevention and the emergency protocols used at your facility.
Ensure all of your staff remains current and up-to-date in all required training (CPR, first aid, CPO etc.)
Inspect all of your safety equipment and keep an up-to-date inventory throughout the year. Safety and pool equipment can age, rust, and become damaged over time. It’s important to be aware of any equipment that needs to be replaced before an accident occurs. Equipment can include first aid kits, spine boards, life rings, safety rope, fire extinguishers, warning signs, deck equipment.
Perform an annual slide inspection. As water slides age they can rust, or become damaged. It is necessary to have a licensed water slide technician inspect the slide to protect and ensure the safety of the users.
When changes are made at your aquatic facility, it is important to update your staff. This includes pool managers, operators, lifeguards, aquatic instructors and anyone else who works in the aquatic centre.
KEEP IT GREEN
Today, everyone seems to be going green in some way. The importance in becoming environmentally friendly has shifted the way we live our lives, and the way we conduct business each day. Not only does going green provide environmental benefits, but green efforts can also lower your operating costs.
Make the switch to environmentally friendly products and replace old equipment with new, energy efficient equipment. This solution will not only improve your facilities impact on the environment, but will also benefit your budget.
Installing a Variable Frequency Drive (I-Pool VFD) can save you $7,000 - $10,000 a year.
Installing an Ultraviolet System decreases chemical usage by 20%.
Reduce chemical use at your facility. Water that is maintained properly and consistently can lessen pool water issues and chemical treatments.
Use an environmentally friendly liquid “pool cover” to decrease chemical usage and save on operating costs by reducing evaporation and heat loss.
Repair any existing leaks and service balance tanks to ensure they are operating properly.
Having years of experience in construction and participating in hundreds of health Inspections, I hear a lot of the, “Why do they have all these rules?”, “We will never be able to satisfy them”. My response to these comments is simple; Let’s do what the regulations asks for and we will get the outcome we want. It does help that we have been through lots of these inspections and can be prepared for them, but just being aware of the code requirements gives anyone the ability to be successful.
Here are a few common and very important items that the Health Inspector will look for when they inspect any facility. This is just a portion of the requirements that are listed in Regulation 565 of the Health Protection and Promotions Act for Ontario.
Do you have an emergency telephone installed and in working order? Are there instructions for your staff or patrons for when an emergency call is made? If any emergency occurs within the pool area and 911 needs to be called, anyone in the pool area may pick up the emergency phone to make the call. When making that call, the 911 operator will ask questions that will need to be answered promptly. Having the emergency instructions with the facility information posted is required so that person is able to relay this information to the 911 operator.
Are all the required safety signs posted? The regulated safety signs are to ensure that your patrons know the rules of the pool, where the emergency phone is and remind them to shower before entering the pool. They also identify for the staff how many bathers can be in the pool at one time. The signs have to legible and posted at all times.
Is the required safety equipment accessible for the patrons and staff in the pool? The health regulation lists the required safety equipment that you need on hand in case of any emergencies. These items should be maintained and checked to ensure they are in working order on a regular basis. You would never want to be in an emergency situation without the proper gear.
POOL CHEMISTRY LOGS
Are your pool chemistry logs up-to-date? Is your pool chemistry within the proper parameters? Recording your pool chemistry every 2 hours can feel exhausting especially if you don’t have a machine to handle those recordings for you. It is something that the Health Inspector will expect to see being completed. The inspector will also look for the daily and monthly checks that are required for the main drain covers and GFCI’s. Always have these records accessible. Pool chemistry can change very quickly and cause your pool to be unbalanced. Unbalanced chemistry in your pool can cause harmful bacteria and infections, and needs to be adjusted as soon as the readings are taken. Ensuring you have a test kit and a stock of chemicals on hand at all times. If the chemistry needs to be adjusted it can be done promptly.
A Health Inspector is not only ensuring that your pool complies with the rules that have been set out by this governing body, but they also ensure that the Owner and the Operator of the pool understand the codes and will follow them during operation of the pool. While the pool is in operation the patrons that are using these swimming pools do so with confidence that the individuals running those facilities are complying with the municipal codes and understand how to do so. The Health Department along with the Health Regulations will ensure this. For the Owners safety as well as the patrons.