Category Archives: Water Treatment

Do You need a CPO®?

When I joined TMI, I had never heard of a Certified Pool Operator (CPO®). I had no idea they existed.  People really undertake training and education just to take care of a pool? Why? I’d seen my grandfather squint at a pink sample of pool water and throw a few more pucks of chlorine into the floating dispenser, so how hard could it be? A few months later I completed my CPO® course and really began to understand how much there was to know about a pool. Now, 5 years on, I’ve gone on to become an NSPF® Instructor, but I’ll be the first to admit that I still learn something new about this industry every day. As a pool professional, I can honestly say that if I could sell every pool owner on just one point, it would be that an educated staff is one of the best investments you can make.

Do you need to have a Certified Pool Operator® working on your pool? In many states, the legal answer is yes. If you’re not sure if your state requires all pools to be staffed with Certified Pool Operators®, you may be able to find your state (or county) codes here at the National Swimming Pool Foundation® website.

So if you’re in a state where there is no legal requirement, why should you take the extra step to hire a CPO®, or send an existing employee to CPO® training? Simply put, having your pool maintained by an educated professional is the smart thing to do. Did you visit the code page I linked to above? Did you notice that not only does NSPF link to each states code requirements but that in some cases they link to individual county codes? Currently in the United States, there are over 80 separate local codes that govern the maintenance and operation of our pools. While there is a movement towards a national set of guidelines (CDC Model Health Aquatic Code), it is your responsibility to know your local regulations and make sure your pool is in compliance. Most CPO® courses will cover the most important regulations as they apply to your area and will encourage familiarity with all local codes, as well as will encourage the CPO® student to see the state inspector as an ally. Wouldn’t you rather know that you’re prepared for the next surprise inspection, rather than worry that you’ll pass it?

Beyond knowing your local codes, a CPO® has the knowledge to understand and enforce them. A CPO® often has an understanding of a wide variety of systems pertaining to aquatic facilities. They have been trained in the safe handling and storage of common pool chemicals, understand safety procedures in regards to facility maintenance and up keep, know what to look for when it comes to facility wear and tear, and have been educated on the safe and proper management of an aquatic environment.

Finally, and most importantly, a CPO® understands water. Water is far more complex than most people give it credit for. Full of minerals like calcium, copper and salt, and teaming with live creatures such as bacteria, water is not nearly as benign as it appears. Water craves balance. Unbalanced water can do amazing, and devastating, things. Look at the Grand Canyon. Yep, a little water did that. Ok, a lot of water did that. But the same really can apply to your pool.  Is there too much calcium in your pool water? Your water will kindly deposit that calcium in your pipes, on your tile, and in your heaters. Not enough? Your water will simply suck the calcium that it needs right out of your plaster walls. Pool water also craves a balance in the measured pH, alkalinity and sanitizer levels. Too much of one, not enough of the others and you’re headed for a dangerous situation.

Consider how many adults, and perhaps children, use your aquatic facilities on a daily basis and think about how expensive your pump room equipment is. Do you really want to leave that pool in the hands of the untrained janitorial staff? Or the fresh out of high school lifeguards? Or perhaps the fitness trainers? I’ve seen pools managed by all of these well-meaning, but entirely unsuited persons. Generally these people try their best to operate equipment they don’t understand, while still working at their other responsibilities. The pool simply isn’t their main focus and inevitably suffers for it, be it via equipment failure or water quality issues. In most cases, hiring or training a Certified Pool Operator® would have been the smarter, and more economic, way to go.

A Certified Pool Operator® is a bit like an insurance policy against unnecessary pool closures and costly equipment replacements. With a CPO® maintaining proper water balance, you’re less likely to replace a corroded or calcified heater every few years. You’re less likely to face inspection violations. Instead, you’re more likely to have a safe, inviting environment where bathers want to be. So, do you need a CPO®?

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Combined Chlorine – More than just a bad smell!

I get asked pretty frequently “what’s the big deal with combined chlorine? I know it makes the pool area smell bad but isn’t that it?”, the short answer is: No, it is not just a smell.

Combined chlorine or “chloramines” are nasty D.P.B.s (disinfection by products). They cause the irritating “chlorine smell” usually associated with pools. Chloramines can be responsible for corrosion of everything from door handles, light figures and benches to structural support beams in the ceiling, window frames and deck equipment. Chloramines can even damage the air handling system (not to mention bleaching out your swim suit).

“Where do they come from?” The simple answer is: people. Organic “particles” wash off our body, among other sources. The chlorine in the water attaches to these particles and creates a chloramine (hence “combined chlorine”). These little compounds have a pH of around 1 and can cause massive corrosion on metal surfaces when exposed for a period of time. One example of this occurred in Russia. Swimmers were killed when chloramines causes so much structural damage that the building collapsed!

“How do we deal with it?” You have two options when it comes to dealing with chloramines. You can either be reactive or proactive. The reactive method removes them after they have formed. The most common method here is air movement. Since chloramines are air born increasing your airflow can pull the chloramines out of the pool room once they form. This does result in corrosion on the air handling system, corrosion of metal near the air exhaust, and doesn’t deal with the effects the chloramines have on swimmers and spectators.

“What is the proactive option?” – There are a few simple options. The first is a non-chlorine shock. Using a traditional chlorine shock is likely going create more chloramines, among other D.B.P.s. It is easier just to avoid it. Our chemical of choice for the job is potassium-monopersulfate because it is effective, relatively cheap and does the job without creating more byproducts. Also, there is a short (24 hour) window where any remaining chemical will help break down those “particles” before chlorine can attach to them. Nifty, huh? This works for a large portion of the pools for a short amount of time.

Generally, as the water quality increase, so does the amount of swimmers. An increased in bathers leads to an increased organic load. An increased organic load then leads to increased combined chlorine. At this point shocking often begins to get expensive.

When the non-chlorine shock is no longer viable, whether due to demand or cost, there is another option: Ultraviolet Systems.

A UV system, sized correctly, can remove and continuously maintain very low (0.2-0.3) to no combined, eliminating the need for chemical shocks and helping to enhance water quality. The downside is obviously the cost of the UV.  When chemicals are hundreds of dollars and equipment is thousands of dollars, many will veer towards the chemicals. However, keep a running tally on those chemical treatment costs, the lost revenue during the treatment downtime and the cost of maintenance crews to perform the work. When the math is done and pencil is laid down, it might be a better solution to bite the bullet and buy the equipment.

“Is there anything else I can do to prevent damage from combined chlorine?” The only real thing you can do to help prevent the formation of combined chlorine is to keep your pool well balanced.  A well-balanced pool requires less chlorine to sanitize than an unbalanced pool. This will not prevent combined or remove it, but it is a good measure anyway.

PPG Commodity Chemicals Business Merger

Effective January 28th, 2013, PPG Industries, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA) manufacturer of the Accu-Tab® Chlorination Systems separated from its commodity chemicals business which was then  merged with Georgia Gulf Corporation (Atlanta, GA) to form a  new company, Axiall Corporation.  Axiall is expected to have annual revenues of approximately $5 billion and be the third-largest chlor-alkali producer and second-largest vinyl chloride monomer producer in North America.   

The Accu-Tab calcium hypochlorite tablet chlorination system brands are now part of Axiall Corporation’s Water Treatment business unit.  The calcium hypochlorite management, customer service, sales and technical teams remain unchanged; effective January 28th the chlor-alkali and derivative employees of PPG became employees of Axiall. In addition, the PPG calcium hypochlorite manufacturing plant, including the employees, will now become part of Axiall; the product availability as well as the Accu-Tab distribution and specialist networks remain intact. To learn more about the Accu-Tab chlorination systems click here.  View the official Press Release.

The MAHC: Evolution or Revolution for the Future?

I heard a thought leader, a friend, take  issue with adoption of the CDC  Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) since it’s being  positioned as an “evolution” in design and operations rather than a needed  “revolution.”

Half of the United States is not united on requiring  that the person operating the public pool have any verifiable training.  Designers, architects, engineers and builders  create pools that minimize risk, but if they are driven by uneducated  operators, then the kids playing in the pool are at greater risk.

Like many “mass” phenomena, they  can be represented by a bell curve (normal distribution). On one end are  fabulous state of the art facilities that are ideal to protect against acute  illness (RWIs) and against chronic illness (DPBs). On the other end of the bell  curve are cesspools disguised as swimming pools with dated engineering and  ignorant operations. What seems “evolutionary” to a leader is “revolutionary”  to the low end of the bell curve.

Don’t be discouraged by the word or thought  of “evolution” versus “revolution.” Which end of the bell  curve poses the greatest risk to people? If a MAHC is adopted and it raises the  bar a little for the top half of the bell curve and a lot for the bottom half  of the bell curve, wouldn’t that be a good thing?  If you agree with my  logic, then become a champion for adoption of the MAHC.

What we have been doing, has not been  working. Having 80-90+ codes around the country is a fabulous waste of time for  government, industry, and aquatic facilities. Having operators with no  verifiable training is reckless. A MAHC unadopted is a MAHC undone.  A  MAHC unadopted is a future undone. Help get it adopted. It will be the best  kind of revolution, one that can evolve.

Republished from the NSPF Blog

Energy Savings = VFD

Most health codes require a minimum frequency for filtering the water (turnover) in a commercial swimming pool and many of these codes also mandate the engineering solution for resistance (total dynamic head – TDH) in these systems.  The TDH assumptions are often conservative resulting in the selected pump being larger than required to move the required amount of water through the system.  As a result, the system is hydraulically throttled down to the required flow rate.  Hydraulically throttled systems result in wasted energy and the wasted energy can be eliminated by incorporating a Variable Frequency Drive.  The payback for a facility that is operating the pump 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, can be measured in months with the resulting savings dropping to the bottom line.  Today, VFD’s are becoming common place with specific adaptation for the aquatic industry that occurred in the last couple of years.   

How Does A VFD Work?

Simplistically a variable frequency drive (VFD) adjusts the amount of power sent to the motor to adjust how fast it spins the impeller resulting in the water being pumped.  As the impeller spins faster or slower a corresponding amount of energy is consumed.  By controlling the speed of the motor based on the actual flow rate of water the VFD is able to maintain optimal water flow as the hydraulic resistance of the system changes based on the loading of the filter.

A more technical description of the VFD interface with electric motors is that a motor-driven system is controlled by the frequency of the supply voltage and rotates on a fixed speed. An alternating current that is applied produces a magnetic field that rotates at synchronous speed. The only way to alternate synchronous speed is through a VFD, which converts the power in three stages. In the rectifier stage, the power is converted to a higher adjustable DC voltage. In the inverter stage, the power transistors in the rectified DC are switched off and on. This produces a voltage waveform at the frequency desired matching the pump load requirements with the energy consumed. From an energy perspective, the power consumed by a pool pump varies by the cube of the change in speed at which it runs – the third affinity law.  Therefore a small reduction in pump motor speed can have a significant impact on the energy consumed.  For example, reducing the pump’s speed by 15% will reduce the energy used by 39%.  To apply this in real dollars, let’s assume a 15 hp motor (typical for an eight lane, 25 yard pool) operating year around in an area of the country with energy costs in the 9.5 cent kilowatt per hour range.  An average 15% reduction in pump operating speed would result in an annual energy savings in the range of $2,700 – $3,100. 

There are other potential applications for VFD technology if the industry can get health department cooperation in maximizing public health in a cost efficient manner.  For example, today’s health codes do not take into account if the pool is occupied or unoccupied with respect turnover requirements.  What if we had the speed of filtration was tied to the water quality?  As water gets dirtier, the filtration rate automatically increases and as the water becomes cleaner, the filtration rate slows thus saving money.  This aligns the filtration solution and operating costs with the actual water quality and does not use an inefficient one size fits all solution.  This in my opinion is where the industry needs to go to provide the best result for the patron, owner and public health.