If you need a wedding cake, you don’t hire a plumber. As obvious as that may seem, in the world of aquatic maintenance, that is in effect what many people choose to do. Rather than turn to a water quality professional, an expert, they play guessing games without the benefit of professional guidance.
As a result, the “cake” that is their water quality doesn’t taste or look very good, and sometimes it can even be harmful.
Fact is, maintaining quality water conditions has a recipe, and it’s a little bit different for each client and each swimming pool. And just like creating class A confections, sustaining artisan water requires precise manipulation of the ingredients and a nuanced understanding of the science behind the formula. Without that informational foundation, you’re just guessing and almost certain to experience water quality problems.
Located in New York City’s historic Battery Park, there’s a famous athletic organization called Asphalt Green, which includes a heavily used indoor pool facility. Amazingly, it’s the only public pool facility with an Olympic-sized pool in all of Manhattan and reportedly has served more than 9 million local residents in its 24-year history.
One would think that a facility with that kind of sustained exposure in the world’s most dynamic urban setting would have very high standards for something as essential as the quality of the water. That was, however, not the case, far from it. Like many high-use aquatic facilities, the folks at Asphalt Green had been fighting water clarity and odors for years. The two pools were constantly being shut down by the health department, costing the organization vast losses in revenue. The staff were in a constant spin cycle of using clarifiers and algaecides to combat their problems with no real success. In addition, they were never able to adequately heat the pools to the desired 78 degrees maintained by most indoor pools.
One of the facility’s staff engineers heard about our company, and we were brought in to offer our thoughts on what was wrong and how to fix it. I conducted a detailed inspection and system analysis. Right away, I identified some fundamental problems that, as it turned out, weren’t all that difficult or expensive to correct. In fact, it’s kind of staggering to think how much time and expense could’ve been saved had we been brought into the picture earlier.
The big problem was the system’s flow rate, which was about half of what it needed to be. Back when the system was originally built, long before the days of variable speed-drive pumps, builders would often manage flow rate by installing flow-restriction valves. These were basically just plates inserted into the plumbing that would block a portion of the flow. It was inefficient from a hydraulics and energy standpoint, and in the case of the main pool at Asphalt Green, the reduced flow impacted both water quality and the ability to heat the pool.
By removing the valve, along with improvements the Asphalt Green staff made themselves, including upgrading the filters, installing variable speed pumps and making a number of other adjustments, together we were able to dramatically improve water quality by increasing the filter turnover rate and chemically treating the water at an increased rate. The greater flow through the pipes also cut down on the biofilm build–up and provided for much improved skimming action and chemical distribution. And, the pool could be heated in half the time, or less.
We also convinced the staff to repair and re-start two UV treatment systems they already had on the two pools but which had been deactivated. We proposed installing ozone treatment to bring their pools closer to our SRK HydroZone 3® system, but the organization’s management has yet to make that investment. At present, the pool is treated using the UV systems and calcium hypochlorite.
Although not ideal, when combined with the increased flow rate and improved filtration, the conditions dramatically improved.
We also took the time to teach the facility’s engineering staff the ins and outs of water treatment, explaining fundamentals such as sanitization and oxidation, the importance of maintaining proper residuals, and how and when to shock the pool in order to reach break point chlorination and remove disinfection by–products and organic compounds introduced by the thousands of bodies that use the pools each week.
By giving them a better understanding of their water’s chemistry and providing both the technology and methodology, they were able to improve overall water quality, and by extension, improve the bather experience, reduce their reliance on clarifiers, algaecides and other stop-gap measures, and dramatically reduce downtime.
In total, Asphalt Green is now far better equipped to serve the needs of Manhattanites, who can be a bit on the demanding side. Although it’s been nearly two years since we completed our work, we recently received a glowing letter from Marcus Farny, chief operations officer. He writes: “Before we hired Steve, we had a lot of problems maintaining water clarity and quality necessary to provide a great water experience for our members, students, and Olympic athletes.
“Steve came in and quickly identified the key issues,” he adds. “Once we addressed those key issues, the water quality improved dramatically. With up to five configuration changes each day and different bather loads, we had to fundamentally change the way we thought about water quality and pool management. Steve taught our entire staff from the ground up and demonstrated how to anticipate the demands on the water and how to prepare the water rather than be reactive.”
Naturally, it’s very gratifying to receive that kind of feedback. It’s also reassuring to know that by applying our years and years of hard-earned experience and expertise, we are able to not only improve the water quality and the user experience but also elevate the understanding of those who own and operate commercial pools.
When it comes to water quality management, the expert advantage is as clear as the waters we maintain.