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Pool School Archive

Pool Capacities

Ever been tempted to jump into a big, hot, public spa and let the powerful boil of bubbles just soothe all your troubles away?

chlorine in poolsEvery adult who's used a public facility is familiar with the list of 'pool rules ' that ends with a phrase like 'capacity 6 persons '. Now, what a dumb thing to say for a five seater spa.

Nope. That's not the capacity for use at one time. That's the safe capacity for a 24 hour period. The spa's purification system can handle only 6 bathers a day.

When you soak your body in warm water, the natural inclination is to relax. It's a juvenile prank to soak a sleeping persons hand in warm water. What happens ? They totally relax. The result is universal and natural. The sleeper awakens to find him or herself soaked in bodily fluid. So, too with a spa.

And you thought you were the only one ?

The State knows this. They researched it back in the 1940's when regulation became necessary. For some reason, motel pools were exhibiting heavy concentrations of chloromines. A study was launched. Chloromines were found to form when chlorine negates the bacterial injection of bodily fluid.

pool sanitationThe State was aghast. In the mid- 70s, I had several, heavily used commercial pools that could not hold a chlorine level, despite a commercially approved chlorine generator and daily hand feeding. A sympathetic county inspector mentioned a clear, harmless reagent that immediately turns red on contact with bodily fluid. Perhaps humiliation would stem the flow, so to speak.

Nope. It became a rite of passage for young swimmers to have a red spot on the front of their suits. It was goober science, but all three 'test pools', including an 'adults only' pools I was using as a control turned pink and had to be drained.

What to do. Swimmers expect a safe pool but swimmers are the problem.

It was decided that a maximum chlorine level of 2.0 ( 2 parts per million ) could reside in a pool and be safe for the average user. In a pool of 50,000 gallons, this is a little less than two gallons of chlorine per day. In a spa, this is about 1 pint, capable of negating 6 self- indulgent bathers. Any more than 6 and, to be blunt, you'd be safer having your soak in the toilet.

Chlorine gets a bad rap when it's blamed for the ' chlorine smell ' and red eyes. Ever notice you only smell chlorine at the end of a busy pool day ? It's not chlorine you're smelling, it's the chloromines. Pool activity breaks the surface tension of water, releasing chloromines into the air.

The acidity of urine is what's burning your eyes.

When you ' smell chlorine ', it's because of a lack of chlorine in the water, not an excess.

When you swim, don't use any pool that isn't crystal clear. Pat Owens, the no- nonsense Seminole County health inspector once told me that 'when in doubt about the condition of a pool, he tosses a quarter onto the main drain. If he can't read heads or tails, he closes the pool.'

If you must, use the pool early in the morning after it's had all night to cleanse itself. Don't use a pool (above, left) during or after a pool- side beer party. Don't use a public spa, ever.

pool cleanliness

Without an active sanitizer like chlorine, the spa becomes a big bowl of bacterial soup. This commercial spa on a Monday morning (right) shows weekend stress. Care to guess what protein feeds the foam?

Why aren't the bathers warned ? The numbers are posted on the sign. If the bathers don't know what the numbers mean, well, they're the problem, so what's the problem ?

When we have to work on a commercial spa, we're there first thing in the morning. I'll pour in a gallon of liquid chlorine to kill the bacteria and turn the spa jets on for half an hour to burn off the chloromines. Only then is it safe enough to put an arm into. Any deeper and buddy, the spa's getting drained.

I've never had a maintenance supervisor question me on this; they have no desire to get into the spa, either.

The Orlando Sentinel reported (17 July'05) that twenty percent of Central Florida public pools routinely fail basic sanitizer tests. A recent drowning in a Howard Johnson pool was exacerbated by the fact pool water was so murky the boy couldn't be seen once he slipped below the surface. And, it's not the first time this motel received a severe 'tsk-tsk' for the condition of its pool.

Health officials are reluctant to punish repeat offenders. Tourists come and go, but hotel owners pay taxes and contribute much to local candidate's campaign coffers. 'Problem' inspectors simply don't understand the problem.

Would I let my grand kids into a public pool or spa ?

Perhaps, I've been too subtle.


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