With summer just
around the corner, facilities across the country are busy brushing
off the winter dust in preparation for swim season. Keeping the
pool in pristine condition the whole season requires vigilance and
facility must endure long hours of use and require that the
facility be adaptable to [a] variety of programming
activities,” says Louis “Sam” Fruia, aquatics
administrator for the Brownsville Independent School District in
Those activities are
endless during the summer season, when days are long and kids while
away their vacation at the pool. Maintaining good water chemistry,
cleaning the deck and keeping the locker rooms in order are
important to running a well-oiled aquatics center, and making those
long summer days not so long.
In the pool
Clean it daily. Nothing speaks more to a well-operated pool than how
well it looks. Every morning before the facility opens, get out the
pool vacuum and suck up all the particulate matter that sinks to
the bottom, away from the filter’s grasp, says Lee Yarger,
coordinator of aquatics at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
Then skim the surface for leaves, bugs and other items that fell in
overnight. Both tasks will aid in water clarity. In busy pools,
vacuum twice a day or do spot cleaning between programs. With a
small brush on a leaf rake pole, brush the pool floor and walls to
break up anything that has attached there, he says. This will also
help prevent algae growth.
Watch the water. “Keep close monitoring of chemistry and make sure
sufficient chemicals are in the pool,” Yarger says.
“Seasonal pools [often] try to cut their budgets and
undertreat, and it turns around and bites them in the rear.”
Check chlorine and pH levels at least six to eight times a day, or
every hour if the pool’s crowded, and add accordingly, even
if you have an automatic feeder. It also makes for good PR, having
patrons watch your staff physically scoop their pool water into
test tubes and running tests to ensure their
Feed the pool. James Wheeler likes to keep his chlorine levels at 3.0
parts per million, 2 ppm higher than the state minimum. “We
try to run high because we always lose a little in the day, when it
gets hot and bather loads get high,” says the aquatics
director for the city of Oakland, Calif.
If the state allows
the use of stabilizers, Yarger recommends using them. “It
cuts chemical consumption dramatically. I had a facility that went
from 45 pounds a day [of calcium hypochlorite] without stabilizer
to 17 pounds a day with.” He used about eight ounces of
cyanuric acid for a stabilizer every 50 days.
Also consider the
use of different types of pre-treatments, shocks, sequestering
agents or polymers to combat recurring problems such as water
clarity, Fruia suggests. Consider the age of the pool, its system,
and length of swim season when using these
Check the circulation system regularly. “Computers are
supposed to work and it’s only as good as who programmed
it,” Yarger says. So, to be safe, he checks gauge readings
for the equipment every morning and throughout the day as well.
Poor circulation can cause loss of water flow, worn pumps,
restricted pipes, clogged filter beds and eventually expensive
repairs, Fruia warns. Inspect drains, gutters, skimmers, filters,
piping and fittings regularly to ascertain if they are in good
Sift and filter. “Creeping water clarity issues because of a lack
of planning and preventive measures can result in untimely
breakdowns and operating disruptions, as well as costly repairs
that can possibly endanger your patrons to RWI outbreaks,”
Fruia says. Check the filter media regularly for wear and tear, and
replace as necessary. Watch the filter pressure during the swim day
as bather load increases and decreases, and backwash
Become an inspector. Check handrails, steps and surfaces to make sure
they’re secure and working properly, Wheeler says. Kids like
to play on rails, so pull on them to see if they can withstand your
weight. Examine the diving board surface for potential slips.
Sometimes diving boards require a resurfacing and need to be sent
back to the manufacturer.
All hands on deck
Wash it. “If the deck is dirty, it’s likely the
water is,” Yarger says. He suggests using 5 percent bleach in
water solution to scrub down the decks and prevent algae from
forming. With high foot traffic, food and animals making a mess on
the decks, hosing them down each morning will keep them from
growing mold and attracting other bugs and
Push and pull. Walk around the deck checking lifeguard stands, rails,
lounge chairs, umbrellas and shade structures. Wipe them regularly,
and make sure umbrellas are weighted down properly or risk having
them fly in the wind and hit a patron. Also make sure shade
structures are fastened on properly. Check all nuts and bolts in
lifeguard chairs and watch for cracks. Wash down lounge chairs
weekly and arrange them neatly at the end of each day — and
ensure there are no sharp edges or toe-catchers that might hurt
Rescue the equipment. Every night when putting items in storage, give the
rescue tubes, kickboards and other equipment a once-over and put
aside any that may be broken or worn. In mid-season, it’s a
good idea to do a full inventory and make sure equipment is in
proper working order.
Make the grass greener. Pick up trash from the lawn area and look to see if
there are any holes in the ground, says Farhad Madani, past
president of the National Recreation and Park Association’s
National Aquatic Branch. During the summer, if nearby trees start
to grow a little full and make leafy messes in the pool, have them
trimmed, but not so much that it would eliminate shady areas.
Clean it. If there’s no custodial staff, have pool
employees hose down the floors and showers, clear hair from drains,
and dump trash every day. Refill the soap dispensers, toilet paper
and paper towels. Spot-clean regularly. “Use the barefoot
rule,” Yarger advises. In other words, you should always be
comfortable walking around barefoot in the locker room, or it
isn’t clean enough. People come in and out of locker rooms
with shoes on, tracking in outside dirt and turning the floors into
a muddy path. This in turn can get into the pool, Yarger says. Mop
the floors a few times a day to keep dirt to a
There’s no combination quite like an unguarded locker room
with 13-year-olds thrashing around in it, Yarger says.
“They’re having a field day literally tearing your
fixtures out … if they’re bored and there’s no
supervision in there.” Assign someone to that area to
maintain order and be on hand to help people who need
Take a walk.
At least once an hour, send someone through each locker room to
pick up toilet paper, turn off showers and sinks, and pick up items
left behind and take them to the lost and found, Wheeler
This is especially
important after a kids’ lesson or when a camp group comes
through because something is sure to be left behind, to the chagrin
of a parent.
Show a sign.
Make sure all signs are clear and in good shape. In high-visibility
areas, place placards warning of recreational water illnesses and
the need to shower before entering the pool. Instructional signage
should be put in good light and be easy to read.
Signs that are
poorly maintained, or difficult to see will not generate any
attention. Check that they have not been altered, drawn on or torn