Deep Blue Diving into Pool Maintenance and Upkeep

Deep Blue

 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.  

 Maintenance Matters

 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.”  

 Chemical Care

 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.”  

 Safety First

 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.”  

 Be Prepared

 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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