Pool Maintenance

My Dream PoolSo Spring is finally in the air. . . at least it is here on east coast. With spring comes cleaning, yard work and of course preparation for summer.

With summer comes heat and one of the ways suburbanites like to deal with heat is by jumping in the pool. There is some work that goes into keeping a pool clean and disease free. I am a pool operator at a camp facility in Wheatley Heights and have come across a few nuggets of knowledge in my time.

First lets start with vacuuming. The best way to keep diseases at bay is by removing the source. Debris from trees, grass, animals and even children (ew) finds its way into the pool and the pool should be vacuumed once a week. If a patron breaks one of the three cardinal rules (no urinating, no deficating and no expectorating) vacuuming and sterilization should be performed immediatly. Then rinse your filter out, or change the cartidge.

Sterilization has a few aspects to it. The first is maintaining a slightly alkaline pH. New York State Board of Health has ruled that a public pool must have a pH of 7.6. This is because various cultures of bacteria do well in acidic (pH < 7) and alkaline (also called basic. pH > 7). Most cultures also do very well in neutral water (pH = 7). 7.6 is a safe zone where it is not neutral but also not acidic or basic enough to sustain microorganisms.

pH is affected by debris and sunlight. Things enter the water and react with sunlight. This causes them to form “free radicals” in the water that change the number of protons (H+ ions). The more protons, the more acidic, the lower the pH. Your best bet for controlling this is to add Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3, i.e. baking soda). Sodium Bicarb will push your pH level up and will also increase the alkalinity of your water. This means that there will be a buffer in the water so that when the free radicals start entering your water they will be absorbed by the sodium bicarbonate giving them less of an effect on the pH.

If your pH is too high you should know that time is one of the things that is on your side. The longer water sits the further its pH falls. If you need to get it down quickly adding an acid will really help. Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) is the most typically used pH reducer (you can also buy “pH reducer” from your local pool store). Just make sure that there is no chlorine going into the pool when you add the acid. . . Cl2 + HCl = Mustard Gas!

The second aspect of sterilization is the use of a sanitary agent (typically Chlorine but sometimes Bromine). When you add Chlorine to a pool it bonds with free radicals. Free radicals bring down the pH which means they are positively charged. Being positively charged makes them willing to take on an electron. . . which is something Chlorine gives up quite willingly. The ionic bonds that form from this relationship neutralize both the chlorine and the free radicals keeping your water nice and clean.

If you are having trouble regulating the chemistry in your pool, sometimes freshwater is your best friend. If you have done too much to the water that has been in your pool for a while its threshold for change falls. Keep your pool filled as the sun evaporates its water supply and you should have enough freshwater to keep your chemicals in check.

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~ by jrn320tmccarthy on April 1, 2009.

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