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POOL PLANT – COMMERCIAL SPAS


Potentially Life Threatening Flaws In Commercial Spa Design And Operation


AS AN ESTABLISHED CONSULTANT THAT FREQUENTS COMMERCIAL OVERFLOW SPAS, ROBBIE PHILLIPS, STA’S POOL PLANT EXPERT, HAS RECENTLY BEEN USING DART CAMERA TECHNOLOGY TO INVESTIGATE THE CONDITION OF SPA PIPES DURING HIS VISITS. THERE HAS BEEN A LONG SUSPICION THAT INFECTIONS IN SPAS CAN BE TRACED BACK TO THE CONDITION OF PIPES, AND AS ROBBIE EXPLAINS HERE, THIS RESEARCH SHOWS THAT THERE ARE THREE MAJOR CONCERNS IN THE DESIGN AND OPERATION OF SPA FACILITIES


water, nutrient in the form of cosmetics, body fats, high temperature and water as a transmission agent. As a consequence, there is the potential for bacteria to multiply rapidly if the chemical parameters are not adhered to constantly and precisely.


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The reality of this, if these parameters are being compromised e.g. the automatic dosing system not operating correctly or the plant operator not being given the training required to detect or recognise a problem, is that the spa could be endangering its clients through organic contamination.


RESEARCH INTO ORGANIC CONTAMINATIONS Using Dart Camera Technology, we have now been able to investigate the condition of pipes further, and together with 3M Biotrace bio swabbing for real time contamination detection, whereby water and surfaces can be quickly tested for organic contamination, show the results of poor maintenance and testing. At the bottom of the page are the revealing images that were captured in fully functioning, operational spas.


THE THREE MAJOR FAULTS IDENTIFIED ARE: 1. Gravity fed pipe from the spa tank to the balance tank. In many cases this is a set of short length pipes, which are subject to relatively low flows. It is my contention that these low flow pipes by gravity alone are ideal sites for biofilm – a biofilm is like a tiny city in which microbial cells,


Debris in interconnecting pipe


pas present an operator with specific problems which contribute to a high risk facility i.e. low volume, relative high bathing load per volume of


each only a micrometre or two long, form towers that can be hundreds of micrometres high. The ‘streets’ between the towers are really fluid-filled channels that bring in nutrients, oxygen and other necessities for live biofilm communities. At precise times they release massive quantities of pathogenic bacteria (harmful to humans).


2. Corrugated pipes with undulating surfaces where biofilm can be protected and thrive away from the water flows and disinfectant.


3. Blockages in pipes, which can be caused by system failure or deliberate customer action – these again will have similar impact on the colonisation of pipe work little or no flow and disinfectant.


RECOGNISING THE SIGNS OF BIOFILM Whilst camera images and bio swabbing can give definitive evidence, there can be telltale signs that often indicate the presence of biofilm; these can be present individually or in combination: • Cloudy water • Ribbon like strands of matter in the spa tank. • Marked increase in disinfectant use. • Musty smells in and around the spa and plant. • Inconsistent bacterial results that cannot be traced back to operational failures.


PIPE SOLUTIONS


There are many psychological, physiological, and therapeutic benefits associated with soaking in warm water spas, and we want to keep them this way by ensuring correct maintenance and management. The following solutions are based on practical observations, and must be conducted in line with appropriate risk


Spa corrugated pipe and biofilm


assessments and safe risk controls. They should be applied together alongside the relevant best practice advice from STA, PWTAG and HPA. 1. Wherever possible always use pipe which is not corrugated in all areas of installation. If possible replace such pipe.


2. Install pipes which can be easily disconnected, checked and cleaned.


3. Regularly clean pipes with soft brushes, pressure hosing or specialised methods. We often use a combination of methods after identifying suspect pipe runs.


4. As a part of the spa’s regular maintenance, physically clean and super chlorinate the system. The HPA comment on the functionality of pipes that can be broken down to facilitate inspection and cleaning.


5. Consider the use of chlorine dioxide based chemicals periodically, when the spa is not being used, to prevent the formation of biofilm. We find this a powerful procedure.


6. Ensure your Spa Safe Operations Procedure is robust and accounts for any predictable risks with suitable risk controls.


7. Ensure the spa is monthly tested for microbiological hygiene, with any suspect results acted on immediately.


8. Make sure your spa plant operators are fully qualified and trained, and are regularly kept up to date with industry best practice. See www.sta.co.uk for further information


9. Whilst this research focuses on Robbie’s commercial spa experience, there will also be similar problems with domestic spas.


STA 01922 645097 www.sta.co.uk


Blockage spa pipe 40 October 2013 SPN


This is what a clean spa pipe should look like!


www.swimmingpoolnews.co.uk


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