Splash pads such as this one in Margarita Park in Temecula, Calif. attract hundreds of bathers a day, many of them children. Though equipped with automated chemical feeders, they still require routine inspection by a maintenance pro.
California Waters Splash pads such as this one in Margarita Park in Temecula, Calif. attract hundreds of bathers a day, many of them children. Though equipped with automated chemical feeders, they still require routine inspection by a maintenance pro.

For service professionals, splash pads present something of a learning curve. They entail far fewer gallons — say, 200- to 300 gallons — and more sophisticated equipment, such as OPR and UV systems. That means having to take a difference approach to chemical balance.
Here’s something else professionals should know about splashpads: They’re becoming increasingly popular. “Splashpads are being installed in lieu of a swimming pool, not in addition to, most of the time,” says Jeffrey Barman, president of the repair and maintenance/service division at California Waters, a Yorba Linda, Calif.-based firm specializing in the design and construction of commercial waterfeatures.

And in some cases, facility owners are demolishing old vessels and installing stand-alone sprayparks in their place.

For service professionals who operate in the commercial arena, it’s more and more likely that you’ll encounter one of these systems. Here’s a splashpad primer to get you up to speed.

Upon an initial visit, you may find yourself asking: Where the heck is the equipment? It might be under your feet.

At some facilities, equipment is accessible through a hatch on the surface. In others, it will be housed in an equipment room tucked behind landscaping. Equipment below level will be housed in a shallow fiberglass container or two — one for the circulation and blower motors and ORP system, another for the filtration equipment. In this configuration, professionals should be able to make all needed repairs from the surface on their knees.

Chemical balance
Though commercial splashpads are automated with chlorine and acid feeders, per local code, the service professional must keep a watchful eye on chemical readings. The county health department has likely set the parameters; it’s the pro’s responsibility to ensure they stay within range.

That means manually testing the water in the fill tank and comparing the results with the ORP readout. If all is working well, you should find little discrepancy between the two. But sometimes automation can be off. Systems can fall out of balance and probes can get dirty and break.

“Trust but verify,” Barman advises.

In Mare Prettyman’s experience, the closer the holding tank is to the ORP system, the more accurate the reading on the display. At a community splashpad she serviced for three years, the tank stood only 10 feet away, so chemical readings where pretty much on the mark. “It makes a big difference how close your ORP is to your body of water,” says the owner of A Grande Choice Pool & Spa, in Englewood, Fla.

The facility had automatic chlorine and acid dispensers and a backup unit for each in case one failed. (Four chemical feeders is the law in Sarasota County.)Though equipped with these safeguards, malfunctions can still occur.

Prettyman had to ensure that the holding tank had a chlorine residual of 2 parts per million. That’s lower than the public swimming pool requirement of 5- to 7 ppm. The dosage was adequate for the splashpad because the user wasn’t being completely submerged in a body of water, she says.

There was another reason: The surface of the pad was made of a porous, spongy material of a vibrant blue. Noticeable bleaching occurred when chlorine levels spiked above 2 ppm. This happened when the feeder went haywire and overdosed.

Alkalinity also must be checked. Even though pH is regulated through the ORP system, levels can fluctuate because the water is constantly exposed to the air through spray and mist.

When manually adding acid or sanitizer, do so carefully to maintain proper levels. “It was important that the water-to-chlorine ratio in my 32-gallon bucket was proper on a consistent basis,” Prettyman says. “And pH had to be at 7.5 consistently.”

Regulations vary, so check local codes before using cyanuric acid. In Sarasota County, Fla., it’s a big no-no.

To maintain proper water balance, you also must make sure the ORP system can do its job. Regularly examine the neoprene tubes for pinched or blocked lines. You also should clean the probes every six weeks, because scale can interfere with signals being sent to the feeder to dispense more chlorine or acid. Use a solution of muriatic acid and water to scrub off any build-up with a soft tooth brush. A mix of vinegar and water is another option. “It’s much less abrasive than muriatic acid and gives the probes longevity,” Prettyman says.

As in a pool, water will be filtered through a sand or large cartridge filtration system.
Be prepared to clean the filters often: Sprayparks can attract hundreds of bathers a day, many of them children tracking in grass, dirt and other organic debris.

Prettyman’s facility included eight cartridge filters housed inside the holding tank. These needed to be cleaned every other week. Because removing the gunk from all the cartridges at one time would take too long for a busy service tech, she devised a more efficient method.

“What I did was alternate every other week cleaning four of the filters,” she says.

Opening and closing
Yes, splashpads need to be winterized. Generally, this requires removing all nozzles and capping them shut; turning off the auto-fill to the holding tank; blowing out the lines; and powering down electronic equipment. The splashpad’s equipment manufacturer will have more specific instructions. Follow them closely.

To open, simply reverse course.

Barman also advises using the spring start-up process to conduct a thorough inspection of the facility and consider replacing UV lamps and ballasts. You also should perform annual preventive maintenance necessary on all moving parts and equipment to manufacturers’ specs.

Before opening it to the general public, “we strongly recommend that the lines be flushed and let the system cycle before letting kids use it,” Barman adds.