A beautiful amenity space just footsteps away from one’s morning coffee is a luxury most residents would love to consider when deciding which property to call home, which is why a well-maintained swimming pool can captivate potential nest seekers, while increasing the investment of current HOA owners.
A swimming pool is a rare and valuable amenity for any residential building, and a real treat in the summer. Over the last 20 years, it seems that the amount of pools in the city has grown tremendously. Stuart Roaker, past president of the National Pool Management Association and owner of the Pool Therapist on Staten Island estimates that a majority of luxury condominium developments in New York and New Jersey these days include a pool in their design.
It is one of the more popular amenities in the Garden State to attract buyers. Residents of the 12-story, 206 unit Watermark at the Hudson in North Bergen can head to an indoor pool in inclement weather, and in downtown Jersey City, The Beacon features both an indoor and an outdoor pool. The Grand at Diamond Beach in Cape May County not only features a beachfront infinity pool but a fenced in private beach for residents. Hudson Tea, Maxwell Place on the Hudson and 1450 Washington, feature an array of amenities including a rooftop pool and a Jacuzzi, Horizon House in Fort Lee has a pair of pools, Edgewater’s 168-unit One Hudson Park has an indoor lap pool, and Society Hill at University Heights, Society Hill in Mahwah, and all the Trump condo properties in New Jersey offer either indoor or outdoor pools for a relaxing dip.
Knowledge of swimming pools is the best equipment you can have when it comes to maintaining them. Commercial swimming pools generally provide most maintenance equipment on site; these swimming pools need constant care and are more than likely managed by an amenities management company.
Pool pros say that to maintaining a beautiful swimming facility does not come with challenges.
“There are a couple different types of services a co-op or condo community could have. It could be a maintenance program which would involve designing a plan that satisfies New Jersey bathing code and health code requirements and working with the community’s existing maintenance team to maintain the pool,” says Benjamin Basch, president of American Pool Management in Edison. “A typical maintenance agreement would be that we prepare the pool for the season, we run all the health inspections and provide all the chemicals to operate the pool, and then, we’ll provide a service technician on a scheduled basis. It requires great cooperation with the community because we are typically working with on-site staff.”
Basic maintenance items include chemical test kits, vacuum equipment and chemical additives, however, most swimming pool operators use their experience and expertise to diagnose issues outside of general maintenance items.
“In New Jersey, there is a maintenance requirement to test the water every two hours and log the results,” says Basch. “It can be done several different ways but New Jersey bathing code requires that it’s manually tested and recorded. Digital devices, with all the bells and whistles are more of a support system but they don’t in and of themselves maintain the health department requirement. The Health Department in New Jersey wants to make sure that someone is accountable and everything is not just automated.”
Pools need a lot of attention, from the chemicals needed to keep the water clear and safe to the lifeguards needed to maintain the pool and keep swimmers safe. “It’s important to hire a licensed professional for care of a pool, not just someone who does it here and there, as it’s a full-time job,” says Roaker. “The key thing is that people try to save money but end up spending five times as much. They just need to use common sense.”
A regular maintenance schedule is important, says Weeks. “A typical day of pool maintenance consists of a morning cleaning to get all of the leaves and to test the water and check balance levels,” says Ryan Weeks, operations manager of Sparkling Pool Services Inc. in Windsor. “For a more in-depth cleaning it depends of the types of systems and filters that are used. They have to be backwashed depending on the pressure reading. For us it’s more of maintaining on a daily basis. We like to maintain the pool daily so we’ll have to do major work less often.”
Everyone knows that you need to vacuum a pool and add chemicals, but it’s important that the right mixture is used, and that the pool is cleaned regularly. An unbalanced pool is the most common call that pool companies get and they’ll come in and blend the chemicals correctly.
Roaker says pool care also depends on the structure the pool is made of as steel, fiberglass and cement pools all require different services, and also you need to consider where a pool is located, whether it is in a basement indoors, or on a rooftop outdoors, where natural elements come into play.
Chlorine is the primary chemical when fighting and eliminating bacteria and contamination in a swimming pool. The pH is measured by determining the acidity of the water, and a pool that does not have an ideal pH balance can cause swimmers to have skin and eye discomfort. Ensuring that a swimming pool has enough calcium is also essential when caring for its pipes and heating system.
“New Jersey state law requires that we maintain the pool within a specific range of chlorine,” adds Basch. “Chlorine and bromine are approved pool sanitizers. It should be one or the other, you should never mix chemicals. Salt chlorine generation is another option.”
Pool safety is key. That's why pool operators or managers in the state of New Jersey must be Certified Pool Operators, or CPOs, although they can delegate some of the daily maintenance tasks to lifeguards or superintendents after they've trained them. That's also why state health inspectors must give pools an official check-up before the start of each season. The state also can do random inspections, as can local municipalities.
To be certified, CPOs must complete 16 hours of instruction and pass a written examination provided under the auspices of the non-profit Merrick, NY-based National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF). Training courses are given in various locations throughout New Jersey and the material includes topics such as pool and spa chemistry, testing, treatment, filtration, maintenance, government regulations and requirements, safety and related issues.
The day-to-day operation of New Jersey’s swimming pools requires a certified lifeguard to watch over the pool during all hours of operation. Each municipality’s Board of Health also will impose further requirements on all swimming pools to test their water chemistry hourly to ensure there is no risk for contamination. This daily water chemistry test must include the ratio of chlorine, acidity, calcium and alkalinity present in the swimming pool water.
“Without the proper chemicals the pool would grow algae, especially if it’s warm out. The pool would go cloudy within 24 hours and will turn green within 48 hours, it would be like pea soup,” says Basch. “The other part is that when the water is green it would become cloudy and the real danger is that you can’t see the bottom of the pool. That is an extremely hazardous situation.”
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. Association boards fear liability and are most concerned about pool safety. “Property managers and board directors alike rely on the expertise of amenity management companies to ensure the management of their health club is one that always provides an atmosphere of a luxury and safety right at home.”
Accessibility & Safety Issues
New ADA guidelines for swimming pools were issued in March of 2011. Requirements apply to existing and new pools, wading pools, and spas (in-ground and portable) and deal with accessibility for all people to include ramps and lifts.
Within the last several years, another major law was passed to ensure the health and safety of anyone utilizing a public or commercial swimming pool or spa. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGBA), also known as the Pool & Spa Safety Act, was introduced by Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and signed into law by President George Bush in December 2007.
Designed to prevent injuries and fatalities caused by swimmers and soakers being trapped by the suction of underwater drains, the law became effective on December 19, 2008. The law was named after the seven-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker III, who died in June of 2002 when the suction from a spa drain trapped her underwater. Under the law, all public pools and spas must have ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 compliant drain covers installed and a second anti-entrapment system installed, when there is a single main drain other than an unblockable drain.
“You must make sure that any pool has a device that’s VGB-regulated, so that any deviation in pressure acts as a kill switch and automatically shuts it off,” Roaker says. “It’s a win-win situation—it can save the motor, but more importantly, it can save someone’s life.”
More recently the ADA passed a law requiring many public access swimming pools to have a handicapped pool lift for swimmers that are not able to access the pool via stairs or ladders. This is something that many condos have needed to comply with in the past year.
The Ins and Outs
Indoor and outdoor pools require similar maintenance procedures. They both require a certified lifeguard to be on duty at all times, their chemical levels must be taken every two hours, and adjusted if necessary and the pool must be vacuumed, and the filters must be maintained and cleaned.
“Outdoor pools are subject to the sun and will burn off much faster than an indoor pool,” Roaker says. “An indoor pool is climate controlled with dehumidification systems and the water is heated, so things remain on a constant.”
“Obviously indoor pools are used year round and you are also talking about an enclosed structure so you deal with things like condensation and you may also deal with mold in the structure,” says Weeks. “But it’s still a body of water and you have to maintain the proper levels of chemical balances in a pool if it’s indoors or outdoors. But the difference you’ll see in most indoor pools is heat—you are talking about that extra component that you normally don’t see in an outdoor pool because most outdoor pools aren’t heated.”
Twenty years ago, most pools were outside on rooftops, but developers are much more savvy now and understand that real estate up top is too valuable so most new pools are built for indoors. At the end of the season, the water is drained down below the filter return line and the pool is shocked and algaecide added. The plumbing lines are drained of water from the filter to the pool so that plumbing lines do not freeze and burst. Once a year, an indoor pool is usually completely emptied and thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned before refilling. Every few years the filter medium in a sand filter should be changed out and fresh sand and gravel installed.
As spring comes in, outdoor pools begin preparation for the summer season in late April. Generally, association managers prefer to have pool amenities open by Memorial Day and perhaps a few weeks earlier on a limited weekend basis.
When the cover is removed, debris is normally cleaned up and the pool is shocked again to kill off any bacteria. The filter system is also backwashed frequently to remove any dirt and debris.
“The minimum that I would recommend for a pool to have an in-depth maintenance checkup would be two times a week but it depends on the usage and size of the pool,” says Basch. “We’ll backwash the filters at that time, replenish chemical supplies and make recommendations.”
A swimming pool is the jewel of many luxury development health clubs, so when entrusting your swimming pool operation to a professional, plan a walk-through with the pool operator to inspect any areas of your swimming pool that may show signs of work that may be upcoming. Often times, swimming pool repairs can be planned before the repair becomes an emergency call. To avoid a major problem, swimming pool pumps should be inspected each year during annual maintenance of your swimming pool.
Having a pool presents a significant insurance risk. There’s always the chance someone could injure themselves by slipping on a wet spot, and despite lifeguards being present, something more serious could happen in the water. Talking with your insurance agent to ensure you have the best coverage is vital.
The cost to operate a pool mostly depends on the number of hours the pool is open for use because each hour it is open the lifeguard must be on duty. If the owner elects to keep the pool closed down for all but a few hours per day the lifeguard costs go down. The pool filter and chemical feeders must remain on to maintain the chemical levels at all times whether the pool is open or closed.
A swimming pool is an asset to your community and its residents, and an amenity that everyone should be able to enjoy. A knowledgeable staff and a proactive approach to maintenance and upkeep can be the best defense against potential problems, and will keep your pool in good shape for many years to come.
Keith Loria is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The New Jersey Cooperator. Staff writer Christy Smith-Sloman contributed to this article.
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