When it comes to operating a pool, you might initially think of water. However, pool maintenance can be broken down into three different sections: water, pool equipment and mechanics.
At East Tennessee State University (ETSU), several common procedures are incorporated to ensure water quality and keep pools in pristine condition. “Vacuuming, skimming, brushing the walls, cleaning railings, and maintaining chemical balance with chlorine and pH are all vital pieces to make sure water quality is in excellent condition for all users,” said Savanna Moeller, the coordinator of operations and aquatics at ETSU.
Richelle Williams, the aquatics coordinator and youth programs advisor at Western Washington University, agreed that preventative maintenance is a must. “It is really important to have a maintenance schedule and keep everything as clean and maintained as possible,” she elaborated. “I use a spreadsheet that shows the maintenance task, the frequency the task should be completed and the cleaning supplies needed.”
Items such as grates, drains, grip, staircases and pool chair lifts are all included in pool equipment. Moeller emphasized pool grating and drain systems should be a priority. “Drain covers need to be well-functioning, within regulation, without cracks or missing screws, and should be within their lifespan,” she explained. “Drain covers have a range of expiration dates and a recommended timeline to replace.”
Moeller also elaborated pool grating should be well-fastened, functional, without cracks or missing pieces. This preventative maintenance will help prevent patron injury, and keep items out of the pool drains and filters. “Replacing grip on staircases, and ensuring caps are on the back end of metal stairs in the pool, can also prevent injuries and long-term damage to pool walls,” said Moeller.
According to Moeller, the mechanical side of pool maintenance includes the pump room and the processes that happen behind the scenes to keep the pool clean and safe for patrons. “This includes checking computers and sensors for calibration and the feeding of chemicals,” she described. “Backwashing filters regularly maintain the quality and clarity of the pool water, as well as eliminate risk for bacteria, dirt and undesirable items from interfering with user experience.”
When replacing or upgrading pool equipment, Williams’ department upgrades as needed, based on industry standards and the condition of the equipment. “We just upgraded a guard stand after 15 years of use because it wasn’t fitting our needs anymore,” she said. “I track the purchase date, warranty and potential life span of the equipment we purchase; this helps plan for major purchases.”
Moeller decides when to update equipment based on several components: operations, functionality and aesthetics. “Operationally, this could mean replacing drain covers, grates, chlorinators, regulators and any part crucial to maintaining chemical balance,” she said. “Updating these components can be on the basis of lifespan, expiration date or damage.”
Functionality for Moeller includes stairs, chair lifts, automatic doors, emergency phones and lifeguard rescue supplies. “Many of these items can be serviced for repairs but may require a full update depending on age, quality, if they are in proper working condition, or if there is an improved version to enhance your facility and provide additional safety,” she said.
Aesthetics include paint, storage, seating, cleanliness, organizational shelves and personal storage. These can be updated based on needs or lifespan of equipment, and to keep up with trends in the industry.
The consistency of pool maintenance has the ability to affect patrons more than most may realize. This is why Moeller begins every day by reading the pool chemicals, checking the pump room and calibrating the computer to match her readings if necessary.
“Things to consider include water and air temperature, dependent on what kind of programs the facility offers,” said Moeller. “Maintaining proper chemical balance can also prevent the spread of bacteria, minimize the chance for illness, prevent skin and eye irritation, and discoloration or deterioration of swimwear, gear and protection from other risks — all of these can positively or negatively impact user experience.”
Additionally, Williams emphasized the act of pool maintenance should have minimal impact on patrons. “Drain and clean hot tubs during low volume times, as well as continuously completing small maintenance tasks in order to not have to dispute hours of operation because of a preventable problem,” she said.
While being consistent and organized with pool maintenance is the main key to keeping pools in pristine condition, Moeller offered additional suggestions to implement for ensuring the process runs smoothly.
“Keep multiples of items on hand in case of an equipment failure,” suggested Moeller. “This can assist in keeping the pool open for patrons and
provides a great service to them if their routines are not interrupted by emergency closures
Moeller also suggested keeping great working relationships with those who help keep the pool running. “Educate your lifeguards on what to look for when it comes to pool maintenance,” she said. “The more eyes on key components to a pool can lead to positive user experience, less room for accidents and could even be lifesaving. Additionally, having good communication with your campus facilities department or environmental health and safety can lead your pool to be in tip-top shape.”