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Top 3 Myths Affecting Swimmers and Pool Operators

As swimmers, swimming pool operators, or facility owners, we are subjected to countless myths and legends that have been floating around the aquatic community for years. These wives tales can lead to misunderstandings, and for operators, can lead to the improper care of your swimming pool. It is important to be aware of the myths, lies, and assumptions, as well as understanding the truths in order to do our part in maintaining a comfortable swimming environment for all. Here’s a list of some of the top 3 myths affecting swimmers, and operators!

 

"CHLORINE WILL TURN MY HAIR GREEN!"

Although believed to be the causing factor by many, chlorine is not responsible for hair discolouring. If a swimming pool has caused your hair to turn green, it is likely due to the presence of copper in the water. Metal plumbing or algaecide can cause copper to reside in the pool water.

 

"CHLORINE MAKES MY EYES RED AND SORE!"

We have all experienced irritated eyes and skin after swimming, and likely we have all deduced that our eyes sting and our skin is dry because there was too much chlorine in the swimming pool. Unfortunately, we have been misguided.

 

Swimmer “red eye” is actually caused by chloramines which are formed when nitrogen (found in urine and sweat) is combined with chlorine. These chloramines are to blame for irritating our eyes, skin and even our respiratory systems. In fact, if these chloramines exist, operators may very well need to add MORE chlorine to the pool water in order to reduce the formation of chloramines. If the pH is too low or too high, swimmers may also feel some discomfort and irritation. Human tear ducts have a pH of 7.5, which means operators must ensure the pH remains between 7.4 and 7.6 and the combined chlorine stays at 0.2ppm or below in order to maintain a comfortable swimming environment.

 

"THE POOL MUST BE CLEAN BECAUSE I CAN SMELL THE CHLORINE!"

When you walk into an aquatic centre and you smell the strong scent of chlorine, our automatic response is to assume it must mean the pool is clean! Maybe we relate it to the smells of cleaning chemicals, but whatever the reason, this idea is wrong. It is actually the opposite; a properly cleaned swimming pool should not smell like a chemical factory. The strong smell that we have all experienced so many times is really due to chloramines – the result of a reaction caused by the mixing of chlorine and contaminants carried into the water by swimmers.

 

These contaminants can include but are not limited to:

  • Sweat
  • Urine
  • Body Oils
  • Cosmetics

A strong smelling swimming pool can indicate that the chlorine is working harder than necessary, due to the presence of contaminants in the pool and may really mean that the pool is in need of further chemical intervention.

 

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Winterizing Your Swimming Pool

Swimming pools are an excellent way to stay active and have fun in the summer, but if you live or operate a swimming pool in a colder climate, there comes a time at the end of the swimming season when pools must be winterized. Not winterizing a pool in a colder climate is simply not an option, unless you want a hefty repair bill come spring.

 

The power of water when it freezes and thaws is absolutely amazing. In colder climates, like Canada for instance, pools that are not properly winterized will experience all kinds of damage, such as cracked and broken pipes, pumps and filters.

 

In addition to winterizing the entire mechanical system for the pool, the pool shell itself requires protection against frost. The simplest way to protect a pool shell is to leave it full of water for the winter. When filling the pool for a winter hibernation, care should be taken to allow room for the water to rise with rain and snow. Typically the water level in a pool is left 12-18" from normal operating level at the time of winterizing.

 

To complete the winterizing, the pool should be completely drained, and compressed air used to blow out water from the recirculation piping. All returns, water inlets, drains, etc. need to be capped or plugged to keep water out. Play features in pools also need to have all the water removed from them and in some cases some water features will need to have antifreeze introduced into them to prevent low lying fittings from collecting water and freezing. Items such as skimmers should also have expansion devices installed to prevent these items from damage due to freezing expansion. Once all of the piping has been cleared of water and properly sealed up, the pool shell can then be filled and chemicals added. Items such as pumps, filters and heaters in the mechanical room also need to have all drain ports opened up and drain plugs removed.

 

WINTERIZING TIPS

When winterizing a pool, it is imperative that the time is taken to do it properly, in order to avoid any future damage and additional repair costs to the facility. Taking the proper steps can not only help preserve the condition of the pool tank and the mechanical equipement, but these simple steps can also help increase the longevity of the grounds, building, and deck equipment. Here are some tips to closing a swimming pool, recommended by the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

 

  • Adjust the chemical balance of the pool water to the recommended levels.
  • Treat Facility water with appropriate products to minimize algae, bacteria, or damage to surfaces.
  • Clean and vacuum the pool.
  • Empty and store skimmer baskets and hair and lint traps for the winter.
    Backwash the filter thoroughly and clean the filter media or elements.
  • Drain sand filters. Remove cartridges or D.E. filter elements, inspect for tears or excessive wear, and store.
  • Lower the water level to below the skimmers and return lines for plaster pools. If needed, remove the remaining water from the recirculation lines using an air compressor or industrial type tank vacuum cleaner.
  • Open all pump room valves and loosen the lid from the hair and lint skimmer. However, if the filter is below pool water level, close the valves leading from the pool to the filter.
  • Grease all plugs and threads.
  • Add antifreeze formulated specifically for recreational water applications to the pipes to prevent bursting. Do not use automotive antifreeze.
  • Plug the skimmer or gutter lines. Winterize with antifreeze and expansion blocks. Secure the skimmer lids to the deck to prevent their loss. Plug wall return lines and the main drain.
  • Make sure the hydrostatic relief valve is operational.
  • Drain and protect pumps. If a pump and motor will be exposed to sever weather, disconnect, lubricate, perform seasonal maintenance of the pump, and store. Add antifreeze to help protect pumps and seals from any residual water left after draining.
  • Clean surge pits or balancing tanks.
  • Disconnect all fuses and open circuit breakers.
  • If underwater wet niche lights are exposed to the elements, remove them from their niches and lower them to the bottom of the pool.
  • Drain the pool water heater. Grease the drain plugs and store for the winter.
  • Turn off the heater gas supply, gas valves, and pilot lights.
  • Install the winter safety cover.
  • Properly store any unused chemicals as described on their labels to prevent containers from breaking and the mixing of potentially incompatible chemicals. Dispose of test reagents, disinfectants, and other chemicals that will lose their potency over the winter.
  • Disconnect, clean and store the chemical feeder, (Remember - Only Water can be used to clean out the chemical feeders) controllers, and other chemical feed pumps. Store controller electrodes in liquid and in a warm environment.
  • Clean and protect pressure gauges, flow meters, thermometers and humidity meters.
  • Store all deck furniture (chairs, lounges, tables, umbrellas, etc.) Identify and separate all furniture in need of repair.
  • Remove deck equipment, hardware, and non-permanent objects such as ladders, rails, slides, guard chairs, starting blocks, drinking fountains, handicapped lifts, portable ramps, clocks, weird, and safety equipment to prevent vandalism. Store in a clearly marked, identifiable, weather-protected location. Cap all exposed deck sockets.
  • Remove the diving boards. Store the boards indoors, upside down and flat so they will not warp.
  • Turn off the water supply to restroom showers, sinks, and toilets. Drain the pipes and add antifreeze.
  • Remove shower heads and drinking fountain handles. Open hose bibs and fill spouts.
  • Inventory all supplies and equipment. Make suggestions for preventative maintenance and repair, upgrading, and needed equipment purchases.

** ALL COMMERCIAL POOLS ARE DIFFERENT – ENSURE YOUR PERSONAL CLOSING PROCEDURES FOR YOUR POOL PRIOR TO COMMENCING WORK. 

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Electrical Safety

Every year people die by electrocution, and some of these incidents are associated with pools. In fact, In September 2016, a young girl working as a lifeguard at a swimming pool in North Carolina lost her life when she was electrocuted as she entered the water. So let’s talk a little bit about this, and how we might reduce the risk of electrical injury associated with pools.

 

Electrical energy acts a lot like other sources of energy in that it moves (flows) from one area to another when there is a “potential difference” in the voltage of those areas. Like a waterfall plummeting from a high point to a low point, so does electricity from a higher voltage (a live wire or battery terminal for example) to a lower voltage (ground).  

 

Electricity generally speaking, needs a “conductor” to move or "flow" through. This flow of electricity is expressed in terms of Amperes or Amps. Some things are better conductors than others. Copper, aluminum and gold are excellent conductors and pass electricity, while things like the human body are less apt as conductors, but can certainly still pass electricity. Other substances like some (but not all) polymers and glass are insulators. Still others are classified as semiconductors (like doped / contaminated silicon). Uncontaminated water is actually an insulator when pure (distilled), but becomes sort of a semiconductor most of the time. In pools, it is usually a pretty fair conductor having been “contaminated” with minerals, chlorine and sometimes salt. The human body is a mediocre conductor, but also a poor insulator. Being that we are largely made up of contaminated water, electricity from a source will pass through our bodies on the way to ground…the lower voltage. On the way through it can interfere with nerve impulses including those activating the heart, and cause damage, seizure or in the worst case death by cardiac arrest.

 

So how can we make the seemingly unsuitable bed partners of pools and electricity less…shocking?

 

BONDING AND GROUNDING

Bonding refers to bringing all of the conductors around the pool (the reinforcing steel, handrails, light fixtures, pump cases etc.) to the same electrical potential by connecting them all together with a conductor (a ground wire). This eliminates the possibility of any potential difference between these various items; whatever voltage one item is at, the same voltage will be seen at all of the other items. But bonding alone does not render the items safe. You can’t get a shock between one item and another, but what if a stray voltage is energizing the bonding wire to some higher voltage? Then any of the items could give you a shock if your body is grounded (for example, being barefoot on the deck). To ensure the items are a zero volts, the bonded items have to be grounded. This simply involves running a wire from the bonded loop to the ground lug in the distribution panel.

 

KEEP ELECTRICAL ITEMS AWAY FROM THE POOL

It is never a good idea to have an electrically powered item near a swimming pool. Things like radios, blenders (for those summer margaritas) if dropped into the pool, can electrically charge the water and potentially shock bathers. Even if the device is away from the pool on the deck somewhere, someone who has recently been in the pool could drip water into the device and create a conductive path with the water from the device, through them to ground…not fun!

 

USE GFCI DEVICES AND BREAKERS

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupting (GFCI) devices work by comparing the current flow in the hot (supply) wire to the current flow in the neutral (return to ground) wire. In any circuit, the current flow should be the same in both ‘legs’.  If it isn’t, it means the current is going somewhere else - like through you! The GFCI device will trip to disconnect the power supply if there is a difference of 6mA (that’s 6/1000 Amps), and does so in a fraction of a second to protect us from being shocked. GFCI devices are a great way to protect people from any electrical device, but are particularly appropriate for things like underwater pool lights where electricity is so close to the water.

 

PERFORM REGULAR ELECTRICAL REVIEWS

It’s a fact of life on this planet of ours that things change, materials degrade, corrode, erode, oxidize and just plain wear out. Your electrical system is no exception. Electrical distribution boxes and the breakers within become corroded and fail. Plastic wire insulation dries out and cracks, ground points become corroded. Corrosion is exacerbated by exposure to salt water because of its electrolytic properties. Having a reputable electrical contractor visit the site periodically may flag some of these issues before they become a health and safety concern. In addition to a visual inspection, they can perform tests (like high voltage meggering) to assess the condition of various electrical insulators in the system.

 

Be safe, swim happy!

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Heat Loss Prevention: Solar Blankets or Liquid Pool Covers?

When I think about heating an outdoor swimming pool, the first method that comes to mind is a solar blanket, or solid cover. Usually, this means a large blue bubble wrap sheet that covers the entire surface of your pool, and is stored on a reel when the pool is in use. However, did you know there is another option to help keep the heat in your pool? Let’s take a look at two of the most common, but different options.

 

A solar blanket retains heat, and radiates the heat to the pool water when the sun is shining. When purchasing a solar blanket, you have several options you can choose from including, but not limited to size, shape, colour, density, and type of material. With the array of sizes and shapes, there will always be something that will fit your pool almost perfectly or, in some cases, after a little trimming. All colour options are equally effective, so the choice of colour is ultimately based on the pool owner’s preference. The density of the cover will usually determine the life expectancy of the cover.  

 

SOLAR BLANKETS

Solar blankets can help protect your pool water from debris that could blow in on a windy day; however, solar blankets can also become a breeding ground for algae if left on for too long in the heat and humidity. Below, are a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of solar blanket heating options.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Solar blankets have an insulating quality (provided by the air pockets that make them up) that liquid covers do not.
  • Can help prevent some debris from entering the pool

DISADVANTAGES

  • Solar Blankets don’t last long. After approximately 3 seasons, the blanket will need to be replaced.
  • Labour intensive (If you do not have a reel for your solar blanket, you need two sets of hands to lift and fold the blanket before and after pool use)
  • Solar blankets are not aesthetically pleasing.
  • They can be very dangerous if trapped underneath.
  • Not environmentally friendly. Did you know you can make tens of thousands of sandwich bags from the material used in a solar blanket? Process to manufacture uses oil to produce the plastic.
  • Although a solar blanket will prevent some debris from entering the pool, most of it ends up in the pool when you take the cover off.

LIQUID POOL COVERS

Liquid covers reduce heat loss in your swimming pool by reducing evaporation of water from the surface. There are a number of liquid pool covers currently on the market by many different manufacturers. However, one thing that seems to be consistent throughout the market is the environmentally friendly factor. Liquid pool covers are usually biodegradable and made with an alcohol based product, which won’t harm your pools chemistry when used in the correct dosage. Most importantly, liquid pool covers are safe for your family, and even your four legged friends!

 

The ingredients used to form a liquid pool cover are not the only safety feature. When considering safety, liquid pool covers are by far the safer option in comparison to a solar blanket. If you have children or pets and use a solar blanket, there is a potential risk of entrapment. Once submerged, a solar blanket can be difficult to escape for people and animals of all sizes. A liquid pol covers invisible film is impossible for something or someone to get caught underneath, eliminating the risk of entrapment entirely.

 

When taking operation into account, liquid pool covers have their disadvantages as well. Since the liquid is a thin layer, it can be disturbed by movement in the water and from wind. The liquid pool cover will only resume its total pool coverage once the water movement has stopped.

 

The convenience of a liquid pool cover is another benefit. There is no labour required to use this product. On top of that, how many times have you thought to yourself, “I’d like to go for a swim”, only to realize that your solar blanket is on and to go swimming, you not only have to find another set of hands, but you also have to remove it? Sometimes, going for a swim isn’t really worth the effort. A huge benefit of a liquid pool cover is the immediacy. Do you want to swim right now? Great! With a liquid pool cover all it takes is a big jump and you are swimming, without the worry of lugging that large wet plastic tarp off of your pool. Below, are a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of liquid pool covers.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • The danger of entrapment is eliminated with the use of a liquid pool cover
  • There is no labour requirement
  • No need to worry about replacement covers
  • Non-toxic
  • Very aesthetically pleasing. The cover is completely transparent, and invisible to the naked eye. Swimmers won’t even know it is being used.
  • Environmentally friendly and biodegradable

DISADVANTAGES

  • Must purchase the product
  • Not suitable for disturbed water
  • Will not stop debris from entering the pool

Solar blankets and liquid pool covers both have their benefits, but they also have their downfalls. They are both effective at preventing heat loss from your pool, however, there are some differences. After considering all of the factors for each option, and weighing them against some of your needs you can determine the benefits you value the most, which in the end, will help you make a decision.

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Water Safety Tips

There is nothing more appealing than the thought of jumping into a swimming pool or lake on a hot summer’s day! There are so many benefits to swimming at any time of the year, but it particularly brings an extra layer of enjoyment on hot summer days. Along with talking about all the benefits of swimming, it's very important that we also discuss water safety.

 

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, and the highest rates are among children. Three children die every day from drowning, the leading cause of injury death among children aged 1–4 years. Drowning is not only a risk in swimming pools and lake’s, but it's important for people to understand that children are susceptible to drowning in as little as one inch of water.

 

The most important thing to understand about drowning is that it does not resemble what you see in the movies (arms flailing, splashing, or screaming). In reality, drowning is completely silent. The warning signs of drowning may include:

 

  • Someone who is drowning remains upright in the water and is not kicking and not able to wave or call for help
  • Someone may appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
  • Hair may be over their eyes and or forehead
  • Eyes are glassy and unable to focus
  • Head may be low in the water and tilted back with mouth open
  • Someone is looking towards the pool deck, sky, or shore and appear in shock
  • If a child goes silent something might be wrong

While these statistics are alarming there are a number of ways to prevent drowning.

 

LEARN LIFE SAVING SKILLS

Swimming lessons are very important and the first step to having safe water fun! Everyone should know the basics of swimming and take the extra step to be trained in CPR and First Aid. Many municipalities and YMCA’s offer swimming lessons at a very reasonable price. There are also many free or subsidized learn to swim programs that may be available in your area.

 

FENCE IT OFF 

If you have a backyard swimming pool it is recommended that you have a separate fence just for the pool area (separate from the house and other yard space). In some States this is a requirement for backyard pools, but even where it's not a requirement it's highly recommended. This prevents someone from accidently accessing the area when the pool is not in use. If a fence is not an option, there are other things available on the market, like alarms which can be installed on the doors going out to the swimming pool or on the pool itself.

 

MAKE LIFE JACKETS A MUST

Children, inexperienced swimmers and boaters should wear life jackets in and around bodies of water.

 

BE ON THE LOOK OUT

When kids or weak swimmers are in or near water, they should be closely supervised by a confident swimmer. Adults watching kids in or near water should avoid all distractions like reading, surfing the web, answering the phone, playing cards, and drinking alcohol. It is always wise to designate a “water watcher,” someone who is specifically responsible for watching the kids in the water.

 

Swimming is a fun and safe activity for all ages when everyone does their due diligence with these water safety practices! These tips are just a few of many to keep people safe during the summer season and while enjoying the water all year round!

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The Importance of Wearing a Life Jacket

While many Canadians are preparing for the Summer season and planning water related recreational activities, the warmer days also mark the beginning of a season known for water-related injuries and fatalities. As we prepare, it is important to educate ourselves, and our loved ones on water safety.

 

For many families, summer includes activities such as swimming and boating. But each year, Canadians fall victim to tragic water-related accidents ending in a fatality. A Canadian Red Cross report examining these fatalities revealed many common factors:

Children aged 1-4 and men 15-34 most at risk for water-related fatalities.

On average, there are 97 deaths a year from unexpected falls into water.

80% of fatalities involving children in backyard pools occurred when there was no adult supervision.

From 1991 to 2008, an average of 167 people died each year in boating mishaps. Of these, nine out of 10 were not wearing their life jackets, or were wearing them incorrectly.

 

FREQUENT MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT LIFE JACKETS

As noted by the Canada Safety Council

 

"I don't need a life jacket because I'm a strong swimmer."

Every year, even strong swimmers drown. Where swimming ability was recorded by coroners, almost half of those who died in fatal boating incidents were average to strong swimmers, according to the Canadian Red Cross. Even a confident swimmer can be quickly overwhelmed by factors such the weight of waterlogged clothing, the disorientation and panic of an unexpected plunge, exhaustion from swimming against a strong current, and the numbing effects of cold water.

 

"Only boating newbies need to wear life jackets."

Unfortunately, years of boating experience do not affect your ability to float. If anything, the more time you spend in a boat, the more likely you are to encounter unforeseen circumstances, and the greater benefit you will reap from a habit of properly wearing your life jacket. Of boating fatalities where boating experience was known, 66% were recorded as experienced boaters, and only 34% were occasional or inexperienced boaters.

 

"I only need my life jacket in bad weather."

Boating mishaps are actually more common when the weather is good and waters are calm. Survivors of near-drownings frequently recall how an otherwise unexceptional task or activity quickly went awry.

 

Sources:

Canada Safety Council

The Canadian Red Cross

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Who Should Become a Certified Pool Operator?

According to the National Swimming Pool Foundation, every aquatic facility should have at least one trained and Certified Pool Operator®. At some facilities, routine maintenance is provided by a third-party service company. In this case the outside service technician should also be certified. It is also suggested that the owner of the facility being serviced by an outside company have a Certified Pool/Spa Operator® certification in order to properly evaluate the performance of the service technician.

 

Since the owner or manager of each facility is responsible for the safety of the pool, being certified is very important. Owners, managers and pool operators of every facility should have an extensive knowledge of statutes, administrative codes, regulations and common accepted practices.

 

The National Swimming Pool Foundations suggests that “any individual who makes changes to the water quality, or performs routine maintenance of swimming pool system components, should obtain a CPO® certification.” At some facilities, head lifeguards or head instructors are trained and certified to operate the swimming pool. This is to ensure that other managers are familiar with aquatic risks and prevention techniques. Since these individuals are involved daily with the swimming pool activities and programs, proper training is significant. All repair and maintenance work should only be performed by a qualified individual/ company. This may mean that it is necessary to use a contractor or licensed professional.

 

CLASS C POOLS

When it comes to small Class C pools (hotels, motels, apartments, condominium pools), there is very little delegation as to who should be certified. In many instances, the swimming pool manager could very well be the owner. The owner/manager whether operating the pool or not, should be certified in order to have a good understanding of the basic pool operations. If the facility has a spa, there is additional responsibility and the importance of having proper training is higher. Any individual who evaluates and adjusts the pool water chemistry should be certified and it is recommended to have a certified pool operator present whenever the pool is open for use.

 

CLASS E POOLS

Medical treatment pools, therapy pools, exercise pools and other specialized pools, otherwise known as Class E pools, usually have a very small staff and the operation of the pool is only one of many responsibilities. Normally, pool maintenance is contracted to an outside third-party service technician. It is important that this technician be certified. The manager of the facility should also be certified to ensure they have the knowledge necessary in evaluating the performance of the technician.

 

CLASS A, B & D POOLS

Classes A, B and D pools (competition pools, park pools, water parks) typically have a highly trained aquatic staff. At these larger facility, management is structured in several layers starting with the facility director at the head. The aquatic staff also normally includes aquatic coordinators, swim instructors, lifeguards, supervisors and maintenance employees. Each individual on the management team is responsible for the supervision and safety of the facility. Larger facilities should require the proper training at each level of management including maintenance personnel, head lifeguards, pool supervisor, and facility director.

 

Click here to register for one of our in class CPO courses.

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