There are many factors critical to pool water quality. They fall into three groups:
– human contamination,
– environment and design,
– construction and operation.
Given these factors—any of which can affect bathing conditions and become a hazard to health-a pool or spa requires proactive water quality management.
Skin, throat and faecal bacteria, body oils, cosmetics, ammonia and nitrogenous matter from sweat, urine, dirt, food, saliva and open infections.
Physical and chemical composition of pool water, algae and fungi, gases formed from chemical reactions, air and water quality and pollution, humidity, sunlight, evaporation.
Design, Construction and Operation
Pool bathing load, turnover, dilution, hydraulics, construction materials, chemical conditioning, disinfectants, dosing control, flocculants, filtration, testing and interpretation.
Staff Needs Vary with Pool Size
The actual management structure will vary according to the type of facility. For example, a small hydrotherapy, community or hotel pool will require a small number of multi-skilled staff. A large community swimming pool complex will require a team of specialised staff.
Training is Required for all Staff
Whether large or small, the maintenance of the pool requires that all staff be trained to understand and interpret pool operations and water conditions. Personnel should be trained in plant operation and water treatment required to maintain water quality. Where possible, a manager or other person responsible for water quality should be professionally qualified.
As the size and complexity of the pool increases, specialist staff are required. In a large multi-facility site, the services of qualified staff for day-to-day plant operations are indispensable. Their actions should be guided by documented plant operation manuals, and maintenance inspections schedules.
Peripheral Staff are Also Important
Understanding the pool water treatment process should not stop with the appointment of management staff. The actions of lifeguards and supervisors also have an effect on the pool water. Relevant staff should have an appropriate understanding of basic water chemistry to testing, water treatment, plant operation and the general procedures required to maintain good quality water.
Lifeguards may be required to conduct regular and accurate water tests, provide an hygienic pool area, ensure pre-swim hygiene and respond to a soiling incident. The supervisor should be sufficiently familiar with water quality to be able to correct a condition that could lead to water quality deterioration. If the pool water begins to lose clarity or fall below the relevant standards set out in the Regulations, the on-site supervisor should be able to decide if bathing should cease.
Managers responsible for large, multi-purpose facilities may delegate some of the day-to-day pool operation to team members with appropriate skills. Nevertheless, the manager still carries the ultimate responsibility. Whether or not the managers have hands-on skills, they must have a good understanding of the pool operations and be able to spot problems and institute remedies. For instance:
– Water can be a vehicle for transmission of disease—see the chapter on ‘Pool Water Contamination’. Many microorganisms prefer a warm, moist environment with an adequate food source. A swimming pool with poorly maintained water is a perfect breeding ground.
– Careless management of flocculants, filtration, disinfection and chemical balances can produce a degree of turbidity (cloudiness) that obscures swimmers’ and lifeguards’ vision of the pool floor, even in shallow water.
With increasing demands on public and private expenditure, the competitive tendering of public services and increased awareness of conservation issues, there is pressure to find more cost-effective ways of operating swimming pools. The costs of water, energy, water treatment and disposal of waste water are very real concerns for managers; but where the consequences of alterations and adaptations to limit these costs are not fully understood, disaster can follow.
Poor Training and Techniques Can Increase Costs
In terms of capital expenditure, energy, maintenance and day-to-day operation, a swimming pool is an expensive item. Managers and staff should be trained to obtain maximum life from their facilities and to operate them cost-effectively.
Lack of training and knowledge about energy conservation and water treatment systems can actually increase the cost of operations dramatically. Poor use of chemicals and methods may mean that major items of plant, equipment and buildings require early replacement. This can even lead to the closure of the facility.
Poor maintenance and operation can often be attributed to a lack of professional expertise or knowledge (or possibly resources). Either way, it represents a failure of management, and may require the owners of pools, local authorities, schools or private operators to spend large amounts of money on pool refurbishment, sometimes within less than ten years of operation. This may include new filters, plumbing, pumps, tiling, grouting, calorifiers, steelwork in the pool hall, heating and ventilation plant, lighting and electrical work.
The Pool Operator
A pool operator should be appointed at each facility. This person should take responsibility for the overall operation of the pool plant and equipment and ensure that appropriate operational and maintenance activities are undertaken. The pool operator should have a comprehensive knowledge of relevant statutes, regulations, codes and other standards.
In some pools that are open for long hours each week, responsibility for the daily operation of the plant may be shared. The pool operator should ensure that those left in charge have a working knowledge of the Regulations and can ensure that the treatment plant continues to provide pool water that meets these requirements. They should also be able to identify problems and know how to obtain corrective advice. Additional training may be required to ensure adequate understanding of the statutory requirements.
Pool managers and owners should ensure that appropriate staff involved in water quality and plant operation all have relevant training and are competent to carry out the required the responsabilities.