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Shortages Delaying Pool Construction

A series of shortages are causing pool construction delays across the nation

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A series of shortages are causing pool construction delays across the nation

Shortages continue to plague the pool industry and have now begun to cause tremendous delays for pool builders. Experts say a serious plastics shortage is trickling down and impacting builders across the pool industry. Diminished supplies and rising costs for raw materials are causing prices to skyrocket with distributors. Supply chains have been dramatically affected by a recent surge in demand for pool products as well as the COVID-19 shutdowns. As manufacturing plants begin to come back online, many in the industry are beginning to wonder if it’s too little too late to save this year’s pool season. Supply delays are already causing serious problems for pool builders across the nation and the situation looks to only be getting worse as the season goes on.

Shortages Cause Distributors to Raise Prices

Across the board – prices for chemicals, components, and machinery have gone up with major distributors. PoolCorp announced price increases earlier this year that are set to start on May 3, 2021. Many pool companies however, have reported wide spread price increases from other distributors in the months prior to the announcement taking effect. Stock on many essential components are in short supply due to Covid causing a series of wide spread factory slowdowns. This following an unprecedented demand for pool and spa goods in 2020.

Hurricane Laura sparked a fire at one of the main chlorine production plants, shutting down more than 40% of the chlorine tablet production in the United States. We have seen significant price increases on chemicals, especially chlorine. The price for chlorine tablets is predicted to increase up to 50% by mid July according to analysts.

A plastics shortage is creating supply chain gaps in the pool industry for essential parts like PVC Pipes. Experts are reporting that the recent Texas freeze took a large percentage of valves off the market as well.
A plastics shortage is creating supply chain gaps in the pool industry for essential parts like PVC pipes. Experts are reporting that the recent Texas freeze took a large percentage of valves off the market as well.

Plastics Shortage Impacting The Pool Industry

ISM is reporting a plastics shortage that is already predicted to severely impact the pool industry. Raw material shortages for resin have dramatically impacted supply chains. Dwindling supplies were already tight say leading experts. The recent deep freeze caused by winter storm Uri, took many supplies off the market as pool owners in Texas experienced millions of dollars in unexpected pool equipment repairs.

The Petrochemical industry which is largely based in Texas, was nearly brought to it’s knees during the winter. Uri had disastrous implications on supplies which are impacting the inventory that pool companies have depended on being available for this seasons installation projects.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited S& P Global Platts, the freeze in Texas, one of the largest exporters of plastics and other petrochemical products, halted production of 75% of polyethylene, 62% of polypropylene, and 57% of PVC. Texas manufactures about 85 percent of the polyethylene used in the United States, making it the most commonly used plastic in the world. The manufacturing delays have triggered a global plastics shortage.

Maintaining Pricing Structures is Impossible

Maintaining existing pricing structures has already become untenable for pool service companies due to the rising costs of chemicals like trichlor and dichlor. Many pool service companies have begun to send out announcements to customers to expect price increases on weekly pool service this season. “We have absolutely no choice” said Mike Pompura of Pool Masters in Corona, CA. “Distributors have raised their prices considerably this season and unfortunately we are going to have start passing these price increases on to our customers.”

Pompura who has run his pool service company for the past two decades, says he has never seen conditions like this before. “I’ve been in business since 2001 and this is the worst I have seen it. We are having problems getting valves. PVC has also gone way up this year” said Pompura.

The problems Pompura is experiencing seem to echo the sentiments of many pool companies sounding off in pool industry groups on social media. The stress on plastic supplies and a surge on demand for resins are causing bottlenecks in the supply chain across the nation. Experts cite a number of causes for ongoing delays including port closures, over the road capacity shortages, and an increased demand on plastics for food packaging and PPE.

Many in the industry think the Covid-19 relief bill has inadvertently caused a serious labor shortage.

Emile Stinchcombe of Aqua Guard Pools in Detroit says the problem is bigger than just a shortage of materials. The Covid-19 relief bill has provided extra stimulus to the point where the industry finds itself suddenly short of skilled labor during the busiest months of the pool season. “We have a serious shortage of labor this year. Suddenly everyone wants to stay home and collect unemployment instead of work for a living. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years in the pool industry.” said Stinchcombe.

Winter storm Uri hit petrochemcial plants in Texas and Louisiana hard. Many industry experts fear that supply chains have not yet recovered to make a meaningful impact in time for this years pool season. This could very well be why major distributors are hedging their bets by stating that further price increases may be just around the corner.

Shortages Causing Prices to Soar

One thing is certain, with raw materials increasing in price – consumers can be certain to feel the trickle down effect in their wallet this pool season. The price of an inground swimming pool is predicted to increase 15-25% in most markets throughout the United States this year in comparison to last year. This is on par with the rising costs of raw materials like lumber contributing to an expected additional $36,000 to the price of average new home construction this year.

In addition, timelines for completing inground pool projects have also been dramatically impacted. There is an enormous backlog of homeowners waiting just to get on the list for pool construction. Consumers can expect extended timelines for construction to go up from the typical timeframe of 6-8 weeks to now 3 months or more in many areas of the country.

Shortages are causing delays with construction as materials become scarce and what supplies are left now go for a premium.
Shortages are causing delays with construction as materials become scarce and what supplies are left now go for a premium.

The news does not bode well for homeowners like Penny Lopez in Las Vegas who contracted with her pool builder back in January and is still waiting for her pool to be finished. “We were told that we would be swimming by May but I’m still looking at a giant hole in my backyard,” said Lopez, whose story seems to resemble that of other homeowners throughout the Las Vegas region.

The Trickle Down Effects

The pool and spa industry is just one of many industries affected by this crisis. John Schiegg, VP of Supply Chain Services for Houston-based home builders David Weekley Homes, said he’s seeing shortages and price increases on everything from siding to adhesives to insulation. After winter storm Uri, several PVC manufacturers reported to Schiegg they would be unable to meet their contractual obligations. Schiegg said he was surprised to hear distributors in other neighboring states were impacted as well.

New York based Confer Plastics, manufacturers of pool ladders, steps, and spa accessories; said they would be unable to deliver products planned or scheduled. They’ve already been forced to layoff 40 employees. Vice President Bob Confer said he’s never seen a situation like this in his 47 years in the industry. Confer Plastics is far from the epicenter of the Texas freeze but is still experiencing the long range ripple effects as are many other manufacturers throughout the pool industry.

Editor in Chief of Pool Magazine - Joe Trusty is also CEO of PoolMarketing.com, the leading digital agency for the pool industry. An internet entrepreneur, software developer, author, and marketing professional with a long history in the pool industry. Joe oversees the writing and creative staff at Pool Magazine. To contact Joe Trusty email info@poolmagazine.com or call (916) 467-9118 during normal business hours. For submissions, please send your message to submissions@poolmagazine.com

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Pentair Acquires Pleatco for $255M in Cash

Align Capital Partners announced the sale of Pleatco Filtration to Pentair Plc in a $255M cash deal.

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Pentair Acquires Pleatco for $225M in cash

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.

Contacts

Jim Lucas
Senior Vice President, Treasurer, FP&A and Investor Relations
Tel: 763-656-5575
Email: jim.lucas@pentair.com

Rebecca Osborn
Senior Manager, External Communications
Tel: 763-656-5589
Email: rebecca.osborn@pentair.com

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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.

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9/11 Memorial Pools - A Look at the Reflecting Pools

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.

The two pools at the 9/11 Memorial have attracted millions of visitors each year since it first opened.
The two pools at the 9/11 Memorial have attracted millions of visitors each year since it first opened.

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.

‘Reflecting Abscence’ – The 9/11 Memorial Pools Commemorating The Victims of the September 11th Attacks

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.

Landscaping of the 9/11 Memorial plaza was done by Peter Walker & Partners Landscape Architecture
Photo Credit: Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architecture

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.

The names of the victims of the September 11th attacks are engraved into 152 bronze parapets on the North & South pools.
The names of the victims of the September 11th attacks are engraved into 152 bronze parapets on the North & South pools.

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.

North Pool & South Pool name layouts for the 9/11 Memorial
North Pool & South Pool name layouts for the 9/11 Memorial – Photo Credit: 9/11 Memorial & Museum

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.

Both the North & South pools have a 30 foot waterfall.
Both the North & South pools have a 30 foot waterfall.

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

Joe Petry – President of Delta Fountains, the pool builders behind the 9/11 memorial pools – Photo Credit: Jacksonville.com

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.

The 9/11 Memorial took ten years of planning and building before it was completed in 2011.
The 9/11 Memorial took ten years of planning and building before it was completed in 2011.

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.

16 pumps to blast an impressive 26,000 gallons a minute over the 30-foot deep black granite walls of the 9/11 memorial
16 pumps blast an impressive 26,000 gallons a minute over the 30-foot deep black granite walls of the 9/11 memorial

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.

Watch the maintenance crew caring for the pool at the 9/11 memorial site.

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.

White Rose displayed above one of the victims names. – Photo Credit: Rudy Stankowitz

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.

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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.

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Natural Pools - The Pros & Cons of Going Au Naturel - Are NSP's (Natural Swimming Pools Safe?)

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.

A Natural Pool BioNova built in Germany.

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.

This photo of a natural pool appears to have the blue water U.S. consumers expect in a chlorine pool.

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.

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.

The Red Tide has devasted many parts of the Florida Coastline this season. - Photo Credit: Edwina Pickles/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Edwina Pickles/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media/Getty Images

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.

Girl enjoying a dip in a natural pool environment

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.

Allen Schnaak goes head to head in a discussion on NSP's with Rudy Stankowitz, Algae Expert
Allen Schnaak and Rudy Stankowitz went head to head in a thought prevoking discussion about the pros and cons of natural pools.

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.

Are natural pools as cost efficient to build and ultimately maintain as traditional chlorine inground 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.

Schnaak says that people need to rethink the notion that natural pools are green messy bodies of bond water.

“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.”

Webber Parks Natural Pool in Minneapolis
Webber Park’s Natural Pool in Minneapolis
  • 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.”

Natural Pools utilize a regeneration zone to biofiltrate water back into the pool.

“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 don’t necessarily know that I agree with you that if you have diatoms present in a body of water that you will not see cyanobacterial biofilm.” said Stankowitz.

“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.”

Webber Park Natural Pool built by BioNova Natural Pools

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.

Natural pools and ponds have become increasingly popular with the recent chlorine shortages

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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