Air Quality … It Takes a Village
Guest Blog by Kevin Post, Indoor Air Quality Panelist at #WAHC2017
One of the biggest challenges with aquatic facilities today is managing indoor air quality. Everyone is looking for the silver bullet that will solve all our problems, but it doesn’t exist…yet. For now, it will take a little effort from everyone to help improve the current situation. Let’s look at the main issues that impact air quality.
Let’s be honest. If the pool wasn’t in the room, we wouldn’t have air quality issues. We don’t hear about breathing problems in gymnasiums or indoor soccer fields. The pool is the source of the problem, so that is where we should start. The first step is to ensure a healthy, clean pool. This includes keeping the water balanced and keeping disinfection levels active. As a past operator, I always kept my pH around or below 7.4 to help keep the chlorine active. I found when my pH was around or over 7.6, my air quality would start to suffer. The next level of defense is adding secondary disinfection. If you’ve attended the World Aquatic Health Conference over the past couple years, you know there is a lot of research still being done to better understand this side of the industry. However, UV, Ozone, and advanced oxidation systems have all proven successful in various applications. So for now, this is our best start.
The pool is only creating the problem because we allow swimmers in it. Sounds funny, but any operator would agree that an empty pool is easier to maintain. As soon as users enter the pool, the chlorine starts doing its job, and chloramines will start to form. But a pool with no swimmers doesn’t really help our communities. So, swimmers can help with two simple steps. First, shower before entering the pool. Far too often I hear people say, “well there’s chlorine in the pool, so I don’t need to shower.” In other parts of the world, swimmers treat the water like drinking water, not like a bathtub. Swimmers can also help by NOT PEEING IN THE POOL! Several studies have found that urea (found in urine) is the main source of those pesky chloramines. If everyone would shower before getting in the pool and make sure to use the toilets when needed, we would see a huge improvement in air quality.
While I already stated that the problem is coming from the pool, we should obviously talk about air when discussing air quality. If we know that some amount of chloramines will be formed, we still need a way to move them away from the water. This is where proper air distribution can help. Chloramines are heavier than air, so they will reside just above the water at the lowest point in the natatorium. Low returns as part of the HVAC design will help move this low-lying air. The newest trend is to include a source capture system as part of the HVAC system. Source capture systems grab the air closest to the pool by incorporating ductwork into gutters, deck drains, or even bench seats.
Everyone in the industry, from manufacturers of products that are eaten up by chloramines, to daily users that can’t stand the eye burn, wants to find a solution that can provide great indoor air quality in every situation. But, until that solution is found, we all have to play our part in keeping pools healthy and safe.
About the Author
In the role of Principal and Studio Director at Counsilman-Hunsaker, Kevin specializes in providing facility evaluations, aquatic facility business plans, city-wide aquatic master plans, and Certified Pool Operator instruction and certification. As a past competitive swimmer and Aquatics Director, Kevin draws on this aquatic experience allowing him to address the needs of various client types.
Kevin has written numerous articles and hosted various presentations across the country on topics ranging from creating partnerships for a successful aquatic facility to sustainable aquatic business practices. You can follow Counsilman-Hunsaker's blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.