By Paul Bergeron
A shallow pool of job candidates is just one of several key issues affecting the swimming pool and hot tub industries as summer 2022 brings greater demand for leisurely aquatic-based activity. According to their advocacy group, the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA), staffing has been a challenge for operators.
Like many other industries, recreational pools are having a hard time finding workers to not only lifeguard at swimming pools, but also to assist in back-of-house operations. Other challenges include the increasing costs of chemical treatment products and ensuring that the recreational water is properly sanitized and oxidized while following local health code requirements. Furthermore, few in-person, hands-on training classes are being held.
Alternative Water Treatments
Proper water treatment is vital to ensure proper and safe public swimming facilities. During times where chlorine and/or bromine are hard to find and expensive to purchase, it is important that operators not try to replace these chemical disinfectants with the point sanitation solutions mentioned above as a sole disinfection solution.
Water treatment professionals must educate pool operators about low-quality treatment products that could cause issues and instead suggest other treatment options. There are many back-of-house supplemental disinfection systems available to pool operators these days (ozone, ultraviolet, advanced oxidation processes [AOP], etc.). In many jurisdictions, and as recommended by the PHTA, these supplemental systems are not meant to replace chlorine or bromine, which serve a unique and important role in providing a disinfectant residual in the water to keep swimmers safe.
There are alternatives to chlorine tablets such as liquid chlorine or salt chlorine generators. There is also new technology in the pool industry that may assist in reducing the consumption of chlorine, says facilities trainer Mark Cukro, President of Plus One.
“However, one of the challenges with using alternative methods of sanitation is whether the health department will allow it in public or semipublic swimming pools,” Cukro says.
Most pool operators should be able to find chlorine tablets and chemicals to treat their pool but don’t expect the shelves to be as full as usual.
Chlorine Costs Doubling
Add chlorine to the list of maintenance products that has seen its price soar in the past year. Prices for pool chemicals (specifically chlorine tablets) are approximately 50% higher than they were one to two years ago.
“If the cost of chlorine has not gone up again yet, it should soon,” said experienced apartment maintenance professional and trainer Cukro.
A major fire at the BioLab chemical plant in Louisiana about a year ago has created a chlorine tablet shortage, he says. “However, the new factory is supposed to be bigger, have a higher capacity, and is scheduled to open this spring or summer.”
BioLab President Jon Viner said in published reports, “We are actively working to rebuild our plant—a $170 million investment slated to be completed in spring 2022—and it will operate at 30 percent greater production capacity.”
Additionally, global supply chains have suffered since the pandemic and the increased gas costs impact the liquid bulk trucks that drive around to larger pools and fill bulk tanks. For those pools receiving carbon dioxide gas bulk deliveries and/or bulk muriatic acid deliveries, the same fuel surcharges apply.
Proper Dosing Goes a Long Way
Water treatment professionals need to ensure pool operators are focused on chlorine consumption and dosing the pool correctly.
“In other words, don’t overtreat the water,” Cukro says. “Make sure the chemicals are in the ideal ranges, the circulation is working properly, and filtration is functioning at its optimal levels. An effective way to stay on top of the readings is to test the water more frequently—three times a day—using a high-quality test kit. A little extra attention can go a long way with reducing chemical consumptions.”
Pool operators should aim to “keep chlorine and pH levels stable, hold contaminants as low as possible, and make sure that mechanical systems are functioning properly. That should make a noticeable difference. And be sure to maintain the correct levels of stabilizer, too.”
“Taking care of a swimming pool and maintaining it is a balancing act,” Cukro says. “When all areas are taken care of properly you can significantly reduce the amount of chemical consumption. When everything is in the correct ranges and all of the equipment is operating correctly it’s much easier to predict what you will need so you can purchase and store chemicals accordingly and prevent unnecessary usage of chlorine, repairs, and expenditures.”
PHTA said that water testing and dosing automation continue to evolve every year. Operators can now pair this new automation technology with internet and advanced smartphone apps, allowing them to receive instant notifications of pool trends and issues. This also allows them to make dosing and controller changes to their water when not on-site.
As technology improves, the ability to test and monitor water quality on-site will become more intuitive and provide better answers for operators to ensure that the water is safe for users.
Be Aware of ‘Rusty’ Equipment
Paul Rhodes, CAMT, Director of Maintenance Operations, The Life Properties, Atlanta, GA, says pool maintenance is a topic floating under the radar right now—even as many communities are taking their pools public for the first time in a while, given the pandemic.
“After a couple of years of diminished pool use, the expectation this season is that they’ll be back up and running at full speed,” Rhodes says. “Not only is the equipment a little rusty, those who are now responsible for the maintenance could be a bit undertrained in the process.”
About the author
Paul Bergeron has been a multi-industry reporter for 30 years, covering energy and sustainability, property management, global HR trends, small business, technology and horse racing. He currently is Executive Editor for his self-operated content marketing company, Thought Leadership Today in Herndon, VA.