Pool supply shortages continue to create real problems for the industry as we move further along into the 2021 pool season. One unexpected side effect to the Covid-19 pandemic last year was a renewed interest in swimming pools. For the first time ever, the pool industry has had less competition for discretionary dollars than any time in it’s history.
The Pool Industry Grew 24% in 2020
Pool & Hot Tub Alliance said the industry grew by 24% last year. That kind of growth however, has not come without some noticeable consequences that are beginning to affect the industry in a number of ways.
While popularity for swimming pools has dramatically increased, manufacturing and production has had trouble keeping up with demand. A widening gap between available labor to build swimming pools has created delays in production. The pool construction and pool service industries also continue to struggle with rising costs for essential materials such as PVC pipe, valves, tile, heaters, concrete, the list goes on and on.
Every conceivable component or sector that is involved in the construction, manufacturing, or installation of inground pools has been impacted this year to some degree. Some companies are beginning to notice the impact faster than others. Already large volume builders have begun to find themselves in serious hot water as they seem to be directly effected the most by shortages in labor and materials.
Widening Gap in Labor Force & Manufacturing
The disparity in available bodies to build and service pools is creating a widening gap. The bubble only continues to grow as Americans still find themselves largely still under home quarantine. Despite assertions from the White House that we’d all be vaccinated by May 1st, a large portion of the country still remains unvaccinated. Travel has not yet begun to resume to it’s normal pace. Currently only 32.8% of the population is fully vaccinated. This certainly means that as we rapidly approach the height of the summer months that we can expect a repeat of 2020 in terms of demand.
Coping With Pool Shortages & Price Increases in 2021
How does this bode for pool companies who already have signed contracts with customers based on estimated prices and deadlines? Many builders and service companies we’ve spoken to stated the situation is creating increasing stress on customer relationships. They are concerned that ongoing delays and scarcity can lead to more and more angry customers.
Experts predict with the rising costs on materials and equipment, the average price of a swimming pool will continue to increase from last year. Pool service companies are also impacted. With the rising cost of chlorine tablets and other essential components, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find able bodies to build and service pools.
The Perspective In The Trenches
We spoke with Stephen Little, CEO of Claro Pool in Palm Desert. Little runs a large pool service company which maintains and services roughly 10,000 pools a month. He is also a contractor on the front lines of the issue that has experienced shortages first-hand. From his viewpoint the delays in manufacturing are a large part of the problem. “Manufacturers have shut down due to shelter in place orders.” said Little “They aren’t producing, when they are producing, they’re short labor. With the shelter in place orders folks are required to stay at home.”
Little suggested that recent changes in legislature may also be contributing to the lack of available labor. “The last 12-15 months it’s become so tough to get the products we are accustomed to getting easily.” said Little. “I’m used to placing an order with distribution and getting it within 60 minutes. That is not the case anymore. We have to be much more strategic when we place an order.”
PVC Shortage Looms On The Horizon
Rising costs of PVC are also creating a serious problem. Last years Hurricane impacted production for Petrochemical plants in Texas and Louisiana. The ramifications of that shut down are coming to light this pool season. “PVC has been a problem.” said Little “We’ve seen price increases across the board in fittings, filters and pumps and anything made of PVC.”
Shock & Awe at Soaring Prices
“It has been shock and awe” continued Little “because we’ve had double and triple digit increases in the products and pieces we buy. From labor, to PVC, to dry chlorine products, to parts and equipment.”
Although prices are increasing, swimming pools still need to be properly maintained. Regardless of how chlorine prices may fluctuate this season, experts say – not adhering to proper maintenance guidelines can create a serious health hazard.
The reality is pool service companies are struggling to honor pricing commitments to customers with the increases they’ve seen from distributors. As costs for chemicals continue to rise, Little suggested that now is not the time for consumers to start being penny wise and dollar foolish when it comes to proper maintenance
“Think about the absolute catastrophe if people stop maintaining their pools” said Little “Let’s throw 8 or 10 million pools with algae into the mix and you will have a nuclear pandemic.”
Using Tried & True Alternative Products
Little who holds a masters degree in organic chemistry, says his company has not been impacted as hard by the recent chlorine tablet shortage as the rest of the country. He suggested that pool service companies begin switching to liquid chlorine.
Borates which decrease the amount of chlorine needed are also part of his regimen. “Hydrogen borate is part of our value proposition when servicing pools. It reduces chlorine demand,” said Little “when you buffer alkalinity and you keep the pH stable, we can keep healthier pools with less chlorine consumption.”
Labor Force Can Make More Staying Home
One of the major catalysts for rising prices has undeniably been a shortage of available skilled labor. The Covid-19 relief bill may have had one major unexpected side effect. Much of the skilled labor pool is still at home this pool season.
Little indicated that a large percentage of the workers that build, service and maintains pools would simply rather collect unemployment right now. “It is possible to protect your employees and your clients in the workplace.” said Little “When an employee can make $25 an hour to stay home in perpetuity or can go to work and make $20 bucks an hour, they won’t even come in for an application.“
It it a hot button topic for many in the pool industry. Pool company owners say that while demand has skyrocketed, the available pool of skilled labor has not kept up. This disparity seems to have created the perfect conditions for rising prices and the shortages the pool industry is now facing.
Shortages Seem Real Enough To Those On The Front Lines
Steve Goodale, also known as Swimming Pool Steve, is one of the most popular bloggers in the pool industry. We asked him to weigh in on the issue when we contacted him Saturday afternoon about the shortages. “In my 30 years in the pool industry I have never seen the supply chain so dried up at this time of year. No pipe available, no valves, pumps and heaters in very short supply” Goodale continued “I definitely believe that chlorine is going to run short this year, along with a great many other things.”
Goodale explained some of the issues he felt were the underlying precursor to the shortages. “There has been unprecedented activity and interest from home owners in their pools. Record numbers of pools being used, built, fixed… and the supply chains have all been hobbled by Covid for over a year now.”
Comparing This Year’s Shortages To Last Year’s Toilet Paper
Many in the industry have drawn an analogy between the announcements of this year’s shortages and last year’s toilet paper craze. Goodale replied “I definitely do not want to be an alarmist and cause a shortage where there is none, but in my experience this is going to be a very hard year for pool owners and pool industry workers alike.”
All over America, supplies are skyrocketing in cost and retailers are explaining it’s because of dwindling supplies, yet the industry itself is sending out mixed messages. Some manufacturers say that there is no shortage and some say there is. Stuck in the middle are consumers who don’t know what to make of the situation. All they know is a bucket of tabs costs substantially much more than it did last year and are in limited supply when they can find them. Most consumers aren’t even aware of the issues with PVC and other supplies yet because Chlorine shortages are currently monopolizing the media’s attention.
We reached out to pool companies on social media and asked what kind of shortages they are experiencing. They weren’t shy about sounding off:
One Reddit user ‘just_tryin_2_make_it‘ said “We have a shortage of pipe fittings down in Texas. People are hoarding and creating a shortage for profit due to the disaster and those in need are without.”
As the pool season progresses, one thing is certain – a lack of available manpower and supplies are real problems that pool service and pool construction firms alike both have to contend with this summer. Listen to our entire interview with Stephen Little, CEO of Claro Pool on the Pool Magazine podcast.
Featured Photo Credit: Alan Smith Pools
Pentair Acquires Pleatco for $255M in Cash
Align Capital Partners announced the sale of Pleatco Filtration to Pentair Plc in a $255M cash deal.
Pentair plc (NYSE: PNR), a leading provider of water treatment and sustainable solutions, today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Pleatco, a manufacturer of water filtration and clean air technologies for pool, spa and industrial air customers. Pleatco is a current portfolio company of Align Capital Partners, a private equity firm with investment teams in Dallas, TX and Cleveland, OH.
The planned acquisition of Pleatco provides Pentair an expanded range of replacement filter products to be sold through Pentair’s existing Pool and Spa distribution channels as well as through Pleatco’s distribution channels.
“We are excited to expand our presence in the aftermarket filtration space with an enhanced product offering that advances our objective to offer an effortless pool experience for consumers,” said John Stauch, Pentair President and CEO.
The planned acquisition also expands Pentair’s Industrial Filtration portfolio, with complementary air filtration products to serve the needs of its industrial customers.
“We look forward to welcoming the Pleatco employees to Pentair and to growing the relationship with Pleatco’s existing customer base,” continued Stauch. “The planned combination will provide Pleatco entry to Pentair’s global distribution and sales channels, and deliver increased production capacity and utilization, as well as build on Pleatco’s track record of product innovation.”
Total consideration for the transaction is approximately $255 million in cash, subject to customary adjustments. Pentair expects Pleatco to generate approximately $95 million of annual revenue in 2021. The transaction is expected to be accretive in its first full year.
The acquisition is anticipated to be completed in the fourth quarter, subject to customary closing conditions and necessary regulatory approvals, including expiration of the applicable waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended.
ABOUT PENTAIR PLC
Pentair makes the most of life’s essential resources. From our residential and business solutions that help people move, improve and enjoy their water, to our sustainable innovations and applications, we deliver smart, sustainable solutions for life.
Pentair had revenue in 2020 of $3 billion, and trades under the ticker symbol PNR. With approximately 9,750 global employees serving customers in more than 150 countries, we work to help improve lives and the environment around the world. To learn more, visit pentair.com.
ABOUT PLEATCO FILTRATION
Pleatco is a leading designer and manufacturer of aftermarket pleated filter cartridges, pleated bags, and other filtration products for the industrial air and pool / spa markets across USA and Europe. Pleatco Filtration brings together the combined forces of former brands APEL, Milton, and TVS and incorporates stand-alone brands Guardian Filtration, EFI and ECO Filtration under the one umbrella, leveraging collective engineering, manufacturing, and logistics resources to deliver best-in-class products backed by industry leading sales, marketing, and customer service teams. For more information, visit pleatco.com.
CAUTION CONCERNING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This release contains statements that we believe to be “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements made about the anticipated acquisition, including the anticipated time for completing the transaction, the expected financial results of the acquired business and the anticipated benefits of the acquisition, are forward-looking statements subject to risks and uncertainties, such as the company’s ability to satisfy closing conditions, integrate the acquisition successfully, and retain customers and employees of the acquired business; the impact, duration and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, virus variants and vaccination rates, including actions that may be taken by us, other businesses and governments to address or otherwise mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy; overall global economic and business conditions; supply, demand, logistics, competition and pricing pressures related to and in markets we serve; failure of markets to accept new product introductions and enhancements; the impact of raw material costs, labor costs and other inflation; the impact of seasonality of sales and weather conditions; our ability to comply with laws and regulations and the impact of changes in laws, regulations and administrative policy, as well as other risk factors contained in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020. All forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this release. Pentair plc assumes no obligation, and disclaims any obligation, to update the information contained in this release.
Senior Vice President, Treasurer, FP&A and Investor Relations
Senior Manager, External Communications
9/11 Memorial Pools – An In Depth Look at The Two Reflecting Pools
On the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we look at the two pools and Delta Fountains, the pool builders behind the 9/11 Memorial.
As the 20th anniversary of the attacks on September 11th approach, we take a moment to look at the 9/11 Memorial and the two reflecting pools that mark the footprint of where the Twin Towers once stood.
We are now looking back at a point in history that occurred before approximately 28.5% of Americans were ever even born. There are many memorials for the victims of 9/11, but none clearly encapsulate the raw emotions of absence the way the 9/11 Memorial does.
A look at the two reflecting pools at the 9/11 Memorial
Two reflecting pools mark the exact place of the World Trade Center and stand as a permanent place of remembrance. Both pools commemorate the names of nearly 3,000 killed in the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the World Trade Center bombing of February 26, 1993. Each of the victims names are inscribed on bronze parapets surrounding both of the memorial pools.
It’s hard to believe that two decades have gone by since the day happened that would forever change the course of our modern history. 9/11 is a moment in time that will live in as much infamy as December 7th (the attack on Pearl Habor), perhaps even more so in our generation. September 11th is important to people, and the memorial embodies what it means not only to New Yorkers who were first-hand witnesses, but to Americans who watched the events of September 11th unfold live on television.
The mourning and sorrow the nation still feels even twenty years later is evident in the amount of visitors the 9/11 Memorial draws each year. The memorial site was built to remember the victims as well as those involved in the rescue and recovery efforts.
Why did they choose reflecting pools for the memorial site?
Tracing their roots back to the ancient Persian gardens, reflecting pools have been a time honored traditional memorial structure and a water feature typically found in gardens and parks. One of the most iconic reflecting pools is at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Most reflecting pools are shallow vessels and can range in size from as small as a bird bath to as large as a major civic center water feature like the one found at the 9/11 memorial site.
The 9/11 Memorial Design Competition
An open competition for designing the memorial site drew 5,201 entries from 63 countries. The thirteen-member jury chose eight finalists on November 19, 2003.
At a press conference held at Federal Hall National Memorial on January 14, 2004, the final design for the 9/11 memorial was revealed to the public. Israeli-American architect Michael Arad of Handel Architects and landscape architecture firm Peter Walker and Partners concept ‘Reflecting Absence‘ was chosen as the winning design. Their design consisted of a forest with two large, recessed pools that represent the Twin Towers’ footprints.
The deciduous trees (swamp white oaks) form informal clusters, clearings, and groves when arranged in rows. The park is located above the Memorial Museum, at street level. The names of the victims of the attacks (including those from the Pentagon, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) are inscribed on the parapets surrounding the waterfalls.
‘Reflecting Absence’ stands in the footprints of the Twin Towers
‘Reflecting Absence’ consists of two 1-acre pools. The structures are the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States. Both pools symbolize the loss of life and the physical void left by the attacks. The dual waterfalls are meant to drown out the sounds of the city, and create a peaceful haven of remembrance for what was lost.
Remembering those who were lost
On 152 bronze parapets on the memorial pools, the names of 2,983 victims are inscribed: 2,977 killed in the September 11 attacks and six killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The two reflecting pools at the 9/11 Memorial
The North and South Fountains at the 9/11 Memorial have combined recirculating systems that pump up to 26,000 gallons of water per minute non-stop every day of the year. The water flows over the memorial’s two deep reflecting pools’ walls before being recirculated into catch basins.
The September 11 Memorial utilizes a method of keeping water constantly flowing from a 30-foot drop regardless of the weather New York City gets. The pool is engineered in such a way so that it’s reflective qualities and the sound of falling water remain consistent through the changing seasons.
The Builders of The 9/11 Memorial
You may not know this, but Delta Fountains are the pool builders responsible for building the 9/11 Memorial pools. Joe Petry, President of Delta Fountains said the company has done architectural and floating fountain designs for universities, police memorials, parks and more. They are also the firm behind the Oklahoma City memorial reflecting pool, built in honor of the lives lost on April 19, 1995 and the memorial at the Pentagon. Delta collaborated on the project with Siemens for the automation, pump and flow controls. Dan Euser of Waterarchitecture also worked on the project as well
Challenges in Engineering
There were more than a few challenging engineering feats Delta had to achieve in order to build the pools for the 9/11 memorial site. The weir structure they devised had specific requirements, one was the ability to easily adjust and level water flow to within 1/16th inch over 1400 linear feet.
Another challenge for Delta was avoiding dry spots. Engineers accomplished this thanks to integral-design adjustability which allows for constant expansion and contraction of adhesive materials while still maintaining structural integrity. They devised a method of adding ribs which helped to prevent buckling and allowed field welding.
How the reflecting pools are controlled and maintained
By far one of the most impressive aspects to these two reflective pools is the sophisticated smart chemical filtration system they use. The system is able to anticipate and react to New York’s inclimate weather conditions on the fly.
Chief Engineer – Anthony LoCasto, says it takes a crew of three men to clean the pools 5 nights a week and roughly 8 hours to clean, vaccuum and brush each of the memorial pools.
Both of the pools utilize a total of 16 pumps to circulate 26,000 gallons of water each minute. The system is responsible for circulating over 480,000 gallons of recycled water.
There is also a cutting-edge networked control management system which effectively monitors over a thousand different data points about the pools to maintenance personnel, making it one of the smartest pools on the planet.
The maintenance crews perform goes far beyond simply maintaining the pools; displaying a reverence for the victims with gestures of remembrance. One of their duties is placing a white rose on top of each victim’s name who has a birthday each day before the memorial opens to the general public.
The project, which also includes an underground museum that utilizes parts of the fallen towers, had a budget of $610 million and offically opened to the public on September 12, 2011; ten years and one day after the September 11th attacks.
Watch a time lapse of “How the 9/11 Memorial Was Built“. We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on learning what role folks in the pool industry had in creating the September 11 memorial. If you think it’s important to share the story, please do so. Feel free to make a donation to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum who are preserving the history of the events of September 11th for future generations to come.
Natural Pools – The Pros & Cons of Going Au Naturel
We look at the Pros and Cons of Natural Pools and discuss the chemistry & science behind NSP’s. With guests Rudy Stankowitz & Allen Schnaak.
The chlorine shortages we’ve been facing this pool season has consumers looking for viable alternatives to a traditionally chlorine sanitized pool. Natural pools first started as a trend a few decades ago in Europe and over the past few years have slowly been gaining traction in the United States and Australia.
What is a Natural Pool?
A natural swimming pool typically doesn’t use chlorine for sanitization. NSP’s use plants to filter the water chemistry naturally, without chemicals. In most applications, the swimming pool is divided into two different sections: an area for swimming, and a dedicated regeneration zone with living plants that feed hydroponically on the water.
How does a natural pool work?
The water itself is naturally filtered by microorganisms through biological filtration plant life in the regeneration zone. The water is cleaned and filtered as it passes through the regeneration zone, and then back into the swimming area. A pump allows slow moving water to passively filtrate and the movement helps prevent mosquitos from breeding.
Small aquatic animals, such as microscopic algae-eating daphnia, snails, and amphibians, will typically colonize the regeneration zone of a natural pool environment over time.
Natural Pools Are Becoming More Popular
Allen Schnaak, Vice President of Business Development for BioNova Natural Pools thinks this could actually be a pivotal moment to introduce the pool industry to a new way of looking at how to filtrate and treat bodies of water. Recently Schnaak spoke with the Wall Street Journal touting the virtues of a chemically independent pool environment, and suddenly folks have begun to seriously pay attention.
No chlorine? No problem. This summer, homeowners are trading traditional pools for natural pools, which are chemical-free. https://t.co/r2uoH5VJWA— WSJ Real Estate (@WSJRealEstate) June 25, 2021
BioNova is one of a handful of companies around the United States that are specializing in building NSP’s (natural swimming pools). Schnaak, who has appeared in numerous articles on the subject, has been working to educate consumers as well as the pool industry about the benefits of bio filtering swimming pools without the use of chlorine or other chemicals.
The Value Proposition of owning a Natural Pool
“Biological filtration in a natural pool has the same objectives as chemical applications.” said Schnaak who has a long history in the pool industry and worked on the chemical side before embracing natural pools. “The purpose of adding chemicals to the pool,” continued Schnaak, “is the same purpose of biological filtration and that is to reduce and suppress the opportunity for pathogens to exist and thrive in the water.”
“We’re seeing this play out in natures backyard in Tampa Bay right now with the red tide influenced by a greater amount of nutrients than the ecosystem can consume which gives these pathogens an opportunity to thrive.” said Schnaak referring to a toxic algae bloom which has ravaged marine life and killed millions of fish over 100 square miles of Florida coastline.
We’ve seen plenty of articles discussing natural pools, how they work, and why consumers should consider building one. In my discussions with Schnaak prior to our interview, I asked him if he would be willing to have a frank and open conversation with Rudy Stankowitz who has openly expressed his disdain for natural filtration and disaffectionately refers to NSP’s as “ponds”. Schnaak jumped at the opportunity to address Stankowitz one on one on the Pool Magazine podcast.
The timing for Schnaak to pitch the value proposition for natural pools couldn’t come at a better moment. With the current shortages consumers are facing, plus a new emphasis on eco-consciousness, the opportunity is there for bio pools to pick up enormous traction. The problem however, is winning over the pool industry. Folks like Rudy Stankowitz, one of the foremost experts in swimming pool algae have their own ideas about how viable bio filtration truly is in comparison to using chlorine.
Advantages of Natural Pools
- Natural pools are eco-friendly and can work in a range of different climates.
- Natural pools do not rely on chemicals like chlorine to sanitize the water in the pool.
Disadvantages of Natural Pools
- Require larger lot sizes to build essentially two pools, one for swimming and the other to function as a regeneration zone.
- Water color and clarity is not identical to that of a chemically treated chlorine pool.
“It is not necessary to chemically treat a pool in order to make it viable and healthful for someone to swim in.” said Schnaak, “Our opportunity in the market has certainly increased, and we’re definitely anxious and interested in getting more of our pool industry cohorts to consider that there is a viable option outside of chemical treatment.”
An Opportunity To Convince Non-Believers
Stankowitz, who recently authored a new book “How To Get Rid of Swimming Pool Algae“, has appeared on the Pool Magazine podcast when we discussed the chlorine shortages and the trajectory this years supply chain would take. Extremely knowledgeable when it comes to swimming pool chemistry, Stankowitz is a 30 year veteran and CEO of Aquatic Facility Training / CPOClass.com.
We felt that having Schnaak and Stankowitz go head to head would make for a compelling dialogue and we weren’t wrong. Stankowitz’s expertise and viewpoint create the perfect counterpoint for a dynamic conversation about natural pools. Schnaak and Stankowitz go way back and have a mutual respect for eachother, but currently they sit on opposite sides of an important issue. Whether natural pools are as safe to swim in and ultimately as cost feasible as chemically treated pools.
“Really, I’m not a fan” said Stankowitz, “I am a fan of algae being used for other things. Things are progressing, there’s been a lot more fuels. Even in waste water treatment, algae has become a major player. My problem is that this is basically a pond and it looks like a pond.”
“As long as anything living gets into it, there is going to be constantly things that are introduced to that body of water that are not able to be eradicated quick enough that it can’t cause a potential problem for human beings. The follow up to that which is just as heavy is water clarity. We know that 10% of all drownings are attributed to cloudy water situations.” said Stankowitz.
“The preconceived notion that all natural pools are green messy bodies of pond water are just a misimpression. We’ve done pools with water clarity easily down to 12 feet. I’m a big believer in safe water environments. In fact the swimming pools we design are built to ICC and ANSI standards. The vessels are safe, and to that point water clarity is not an issue.” said Schnaak.
“If your only experience with a natural pool is looking at a green cloudy pond, then there’s a greater exploration of opportunity. We’ve got a 20,000 square foot public pool up at Webber Park with a 13 foot diving well that is totally clean with a 500 person bather load.”
- Swimming pool is 21,000 sq. ft. (500,000 gallons water)
- Regeneration basin is approximately 16,250 sq. ft.
“The Opportunity Is On You”
Stankowitz replied “We’re giving you the benefit of the doubt. The opportunity is on you…” in reference to changing perception in the market that not all natural pools are ponds. “I’ve only seen the pictures that people put out there and honestly I have never in any magazine, in any post or anywhere seen a natural pool that is not green. So the opportunity for education is on you. I’ve known you a long time and I believe you.”
“From the standpoint of the industry and where it is in the United States, natural pools are not nearly as prevalent in the U.S. as they are in Europe. 16% of the recreational water in Europe are natural swimming pools. Probably less than 0.3% in the U.S. can be termed as a natural pool.” said Schnaak.
“The opportunity for helping the industry recognize that this is a viable method for maintaining recreational water is on us, you’re right; and it’s really up to the market as well. There certainly is an increasing interest by those looking for more sustainable options for pool care.” continued Schnaak.
“The opportunity for nutrients to be put into a body of water is going to be defined by the footprint that it has in the landscape.” said Schnaak. “As any pool is constructed it’s always built so that it does not allow surface runoff to enter the pool.”
Debating The Safety of Natural Pools
“We do know that with a given square footage there is an anticipdated amount of environmental depositions of nutrients that are constantly bombarding the pool.” said Schnaak, “In a chemical environment they are referred to as contaminants because everything that can be oxidized, reduced or killed has to be killed as soon as you begin taking out the beneficial microbial life that would be consuming it.”
“I understand the process that we’re feeding the water with phosphates and silicates so that diatoms can outgrow and use up the nitrates so that nothing else can have them therefore they don’t grow. In theory, that works great. The problem is just like there are carbon fixing diatoms, there are nitrogen fixing cyanobacteria so you will still have these biofilms, and these biofilms do harbor many other disease causing organisms such as Legionella and Naegleria fowleri (the brain eating amoeba),” continued Stankowitz.
“I’ve done extensive studies on black algae which is cyanobacteria and in those biofilms I’ve found diatoms living happily. It’s not an incompatible relationship if you have the right diatoms and the right cyanobacteria.” said Stankowitz.
“It’s interesting that diatoms are a participant,” responded Schnaak, “they are part of the population, but they are not the only microbial life. When you consider phytoplankton, zooplankton, the entirety of population of beneficial bacteria that has been specialized for the nitrogen reduction cycle.”
Schnaak suggested that copepod zooplankton like Daphnia which grazes in fresh water environments on cysts like Cryptosporidium and Giardia and harmful viruses to which Stankowitz responded with a few different “what if” scenarios. “To your point about Daphnia, it feeds til it explodes and releases that back into the water. That’s also the problem we are having with the red tide. Daphnia doesn’t last long enough to contain it all and then if it’s consumed by an animal, a person can eat that animal, or it can be defecated or released into the atmosphere and that could make it’s way back into the pool.”
Changing Perception That Chlorine Is King
“I think the major challenge for you,” Stankowitz said to Schnaak, “is chlorine does kill these things. We have proof that chlorine kills those things. What we need then if this is true, if this system takes all these things out, we need to get that research out and make that common knowledge because that’s how you gain more acceptance in the pool industry,” continued Stankowitz.
Schnaak agreed and said that as a member of the council for the Model Aquatic Health Code that they’d begun participating in an ad-hoc committee for the evaluation and potential implementation of biological filtration for public aquatic venues. Schnaak agreed there is much that is still misunderstood about natural pools and that each project has to account for the specific environment, size, bather load and unique characteristics.
No One Size Fits All Solution
Natural swimming pools are very dependent on maintaining ideal conditions for the plant life which bio filtrates and allows useful organisms to thrive. “There isn’t a one size fit’s all, neither is there in chemical applications. There’s not a pool out there where you couldn’t find a pathogen or organism living in that environment. The presence of chlorine does not indicate a sanitized environment.” said Schnaak.
Ultimately, Stankowitz still had serious questions pertaining to how long harmful pathogens can survive in the biofilm in a natural pool and insists that chlorine is still the most reliable solution for sanitizing pools. Schnaak is adamant that the system that BioNova has created is capable of biologically filtering swimming pools to the point where they are viably safe swimming environments.
Stankowitz said that while he’s open minded to the concept of natural pools, he needs to see more conclusive research on the subject before he’s swayed from using tried and true chlorine sanitization methods, which prompted Schnaak to invite him and as well as others interested in learning more about natural filtration methods, to seek out more information on the Association for Swimming Ponds and Natural Swimming Pools website.
Why Have Natural Pools Been Slow To Catch On In The U.S.?
While natural pools are becoming increasingly popular in Europe, there is no denying that they have a nominal marketshare in the United States. In this humble editors opinion, there are several impediments towards more acceptance beyond those early adapters.
One is the public perception that all pools must have crystal clear blue water. Another are the requirements for constructing a natural pool. Given the need for an additional regeneration zone, most natural pools are typically built on larger sized lots. The initial build and configuration cost for a natural pool is also much more than your typical inground pool. There is definitely some give and take in terms of initial cost concerns versus ongoing chemical costs.
There are also a good portion of consumers that while aware of natural pools, have a tendency to believe a popular misconception; which is that NSP’s maintain themselves. Natural pools, just like chemically treated pools still require routine maintenance and to some extent even more attention than a chemically treated pool in order to ensure a harmonious water environment.
Still Schnaak remains a champion for the bio filtration cause and says a growing percentage of environmentally conscious homeowners yearn to go chlorine free. As such, he will continue to facilitate and fan that interest to generate more excitement and awareness about natural pools.
Q&A Fact Sheet About Natural Swimming Pools – NSP’s courtesy of Allen Schnaak – Vice President of BioNova Natural Pools
Listen to our entire interview with Allan Schnaak and Rudy Stankowitz on the Pool Magazine podcast.
Featured Photo Credit & Article Photo Credits: BioNova Natural Pools
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