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    GRAPHIC BY DENISE BAKER

Let’s assume that your pool has been “down” for the winter. Was it idling during those off months, cold yet maintained in some limited fashion? Maybe it was left to grow green or worse. … Or was it drained dry, then allowed to gather rain puddles, frogs and tadpoles?

We must start somewhere, and filling the pool is definitely a good start! The project certainly requires that the pool operator — you — be prepared with goodies such as a serious pool water test kit, a thermometer, some tools and the like. Don’t get in your bathing suit yet, however.

If the water is cold, and we surely must assume it is, you’ll want the heater on and any pool cover in place right at the start. Yes, that circulation pump must be running to get down to heating, that’s for sure.  Filling, pumping and heating are not “steps” in the opening process, though. If you don’t have a full or nearly full pool and a functioning circulation system, feel free to skip all five of these steps listed below until you do!

1. Get your water in shape — manually! Chlorinate, chlorinate, chlorinate! Throw some, dump some or pour some. Just get a bunch in there now, remembering that 1 pound of unstabilized chlorine (or one 12 percent bleach gallon) will give you about one part per million in 120,000 gallons of water. So get figuring!

Now, with any luck and decent water clarity, you can use that fancy test kit to measure the chlorine residual, calcium hardness, total alkalinity, total dissolved solids and the pH. That last item (pH) probably is the most important, as long there’s some chlorine in there, using muriatic acid or soda ash to get the water’s pH in those happy mid-sevens.

Complete water “balance” includes those five variables — a book chapter in itself — but assuming you remember the calcium saturation index (CSI) calculations from pool school, you can get things “close” without precise testing or dosing.

2. Calibrate your controller. Yes, you have an automated chemical controller. It is, at the very least, managing the two most important of those variables — pH and free chlorine residual. More carefully testing the pH now, you must make sure the controller’s pH calibration is correct.

With some digi-poking of the controller’s calibration gadgetry (or using a tiny screwdriver in the older units), it is hoped the correct readouts will result, so your chosen set-levels can be achieved with the chemical pumps that the unit is managing.

3. Clean and check your chemical feed pumps. Automation with your controller to get your water to the chosen values is neither automation nor control without these critical little pumps. You will fill those chemical tanks below the pumps, most often with a diluted acid and a liquid chlorine product, and you’ll test their function. Tell your controller where you want your pool water, then sit back and watch those pumps pump!

4. Examine your filter and make sure it’s functioning. Sand?  Make sure you have enough sand in there and that it looks reasonably clean.  Start off with a full-boogie backwash, with your pool’s fill water running. Then let ’er run in normal filter mode, usually all night for the first day. (Some health departments want you to run them day and night anyway.) Keep your eyes on the pressure gauges, recalling the rising differential indicating the need for the next backwash. 

DE? Disassemble then clean, clean, clean those elements. Please recall your supplier’s procedures because diatomaceous earth systems have myriad configurations. Start up your pool, and admire the crystal clear water in just a day or two!

5. Check all the lifeguard materials and the condition of any guard chair or stand. Keeping your swimmers safe is a bigger deal than chemistry; your aquatics staff includes those critically important guards, without whom we’d be looking at an empty pool. (Hey, some of them can use a test kit, too!)

General pool facility safety and cleanliness often are the guard staff’s job, and you know they must get bored sitting under that big umbrella watching your silly (but precious) swimmers splash around in utter joy and safety.

OK, OK, these are five very important steps you’ll take to get that beautiful pool back into serious functioning again. But there are more steps, more jobs and more concerns, all of which you’ll discover as you use your incredibly special, very unique pool or waterpark. Put your suit on now, and go swimming!