There are three white doors in the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District’s pool area that have big red signs that read, “EMPLOYEES ONLY.” Behind those doors is the equipment that makes up the brains and brawn of the pool – keeping the water warm and clean and the air free of chloramines.

The man responsible for running it all is Craig Kennedy, the district’s maintenance manager.

Every morning, Kennedy runs through a checklist of equipment that needs to be maintained at certain levels housed in three separate rooms off the pool.

He begins with a check of the pool’s controller that keeps real time track of the amount of chemicals in the pool and adjusts them automatically to ensure proper levels.

“It’s a lot different than the old days where you would have to go take a test and maybe pour some chlorine in or adjust the pH,” Kennedy said. “Another nifty thing is I have my pH at the top, and I can set that – in the old days you used to have to adjust your pH with muriatic acid – really toxic, really caustic, really bad to breathe.”

In the past 15 years, the district began using carbon dioxide, which is a low pH, Kennedy said.

“We have tanks of it, and when (the level) starts climbing, (the controller) says, ‘Oh, I want some CO2.’ It opens up a solenoid and goes through a mainline into the pool. It’s all automated.”

On the floor next to the controller is a tall, plastic cylinder that contains hundreds of chlorine tablets. At the bottom of the cylinder are four water sprayers that deploy whenever the pool needs more. All of the process is controlled automatically.

The pool also has a large filter to pull all of the impurities that get into the water out of the system. The filter is a big plastic tank full of sand that sits above a large pool of water. Kennedy checks influent and effluent flow levels through the system – this tells him whether or not the system is getting too backed up with the impurities the filter removes.

He said he likes to see the system read a little high because it does a better job of catching the various things that come through the filtration system. If the levels are not right, Kennedy runs a backwash of the system – something he normally does as part of a routine check on Sunday mornings.

From there, Kennedy checks chloramine levels in the pool. Chloramines are formed when chlorine used for sanitation bonds with ammonia – it is also called combined chlorine. Once that happens the chlorine no longer functions to keep the pool clean. The chloramines are responsible for the strong chlorine smell that’s common at many indoor pools.

“A way of freeing up that free chlorine is to do a super chlorination where you dump a bunch of chlorine in, and it reaches break point where everything oxidizes,” Kennedy said. “As it oxidizes you need a very big air purifier to suck all those impurities out - our system never could do it.”

So, the district recently installed a new system that uses ultraviolet light as part of the filtration system to remove the chloramines from the pool.

“A healthy pool, you don’t want to smell any chlorine,” Kennedy said. “We’ll come in now (to check the pool), and there’s zero combined chlorine.”

The UV system was also added to the hot tub in the pool area.

Kennedy also checks the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, which was installed about three years ago.

The old system would take all of the air out of the space and pump it to the outside.

“Now we’re taking it out, and it goes through a heat pump, and it goes through these heat exchangers here – one for the main pool, and one for (the smaller pool),” Kennedy said. “So we’re extracting heat and energy that normally went out to space - we’re now using it to reheat our pool.”

The system saves the district thousands of dollars because it no longer has to use natural gas to heat the water in the pool, according to Kennedy. The system had the added benefit of increasing the capacity of the domestic water supply for the pool, including the water used for the showers.

“We never run out of hot water anymore – which was a huge problem before,” Kennedy said.

All of the automated systems, Kennedy said, have not only created a healthier environment, but they are saving the district money over the normal course of pool maintenance.

Kennedy said the systems have changed the dynamic of his job. While the automated systems keep the pool maintained, that does not mean that things do not occasionally “go south,” he said. He keeps extra parts and seals for those occasions.

“The biggest challenge - when I first started working here 16 years ago there were only three pumps,” Kennedy said. “Now we have 18 pumps, so the biggest challenge is trying to keep all of the pumps up and running. The seals are constantly needing to be replaced; the pumps themselves need to be replaced; so it’s staying on it and staying on the longevity of the mechanical side of it.”

  

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