By Sarah Gain
In summer nothing is more refreshing than diving into the cool, crystal-clear water of a hotel swimming pool, but keeping that pool clean and safe for guests is a huge responsibility
|~|Miridian-Mina-Seyahi-----Sw.jpg|~|Le Meridien Mina Seyahi|~|A swimming pool provides the benefits of relaxation, pleasure and healthy exercise as well as a point of visual focus in the hotel grounds, and in the arid climate of the Middle East, swimming pools are a huge draw, particularly for leisure travellers.
For this reason, it is important that hotels stay on top of their pool maintenance year-round, as Le Meridien Mina Seyahi’s pool and beach supervisor, Gerges Tadrous, explains.
“The pool here is a very big attraction for the hotel. Not only do all our guests use it, but I have worked here for 12 years, and for all that time it has also been a popular place for Dubai residents to come at the weekends. We work hard to keep the pool in good condition at all times, with daily cleaning and regular maintenance,” says Tadrous.
“The first guests usually come out to swim early — many people like to swim before breakfast, particularly if they are on holiday — so every day we start work at 4 or 5am and vacuum the pool thoroughly before the guests arrive,” Tadrous continues.
“Then throughout the day we take readings of the pH and chlorine levels, and check the temperature. The readings are taken first at 9am, before the pool has really been used, then at midday, and finally at about 5pm, when it starts to cool down. If our readings show any irregularities, we call the engineers and they come immediately to fix the problem,” he adds.
Keeping a swimming pool well maintained is something of an uphill battle, as bacteria and dirt are constantly contaminating the water. Suntan lotion and sweat from bathers, and air-borne dust and spores, all build up, and the water is also a natural environment for algae which, although generally harmless, causes slippery surfaces, provides nutrients that support bacterial growth, and looks unsightly. Therefore, pool water must be treated appropriately for safety, ensuring that the water quality is close to that of drinking water.
“Maintaining a swimming pool properly is very important,” agrees Jacques Reynders, recreation manager at Dubai’s Al Bustan Rotana. “You need to report pool readings on a daily basis to the Dubai Municipality for chlorine, temperature and acidity levels. Then, the municipality takes samples on a monthly basis, because if the pool is infected you need to close it immediately. You need to be very responsible on these things.”
The Mina Seyahi’s sister property, Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah, is another hotel that realises exactly how important good pool maintenance is. With the largest free-form swimming pool in the UAE, the resort is a popular weekend retreat for Dubai residents looking to escape the city, so the hotel knows exactly what it takes to keep a pool looking clean.
“Apart from vacuuming every day, we also sanitise our pool with a stabilised chlorine product to provide protection against bacteria,” says Talar Hagopian, the hotel’s spa manager. “We also use an algae preventive or inhibitor to help keep the more than 15,000 kinds of algae from ever getting started.”||**||Chemical solutions|~||~||~|There are many different chlorine products on the makret that are designed to kill off germs, bacteria and other unwanted swimming pool nasties. Seaclor Super 70%, for instance, from Egypt-based SIAG Chemicals, is a treatment of dry, calcium hypo-chlorite granules, which acts as a general disinfectant, destroying bacteria, algae, fungi and other micro-organisms through the process of chlorination.
While the granular form of the treatment makes the disinfectant easier to handle, and the product dissolves quickly in water. Having been specifically designed for use in swimming pools, the chemical is safe for bathers, but SIAG recommends that it is handled with care by pool maintenance staff.
The company warns users that Seaclor calcium hypo-chlorite should be added only to water, and that contact with the eyes, skin and clothing should be avoided, as it can produce severe chemical burns. Employees should wear eye protection, gloves and a face mask when using this product, to ensure that users do not inhale chemical dust or fumes, says SIAG, and drums containing this product should also be stored carefully, in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.
Despite the precatutions that must be taken when using chlorine-based products, the chemical has long been the accepted method for disinfecting swimming pools. However, Craig Sloan, general manager of Compass Middle East, says there may now be an easier — and safer — alternative for keeping hotel pools clean.
“Aquaclear is already changing the disinfection process at several major hotels and water parks in the UAE and is gradually being recognised elsewhere in the region,” he confirms. He is adamant that the need for a safer treatment for pools and says that the dangers associated with traditional cleaning products should not be underestimated.
“Too often around this region we’re seeing mistakes happen with chlorine,” Sloan says.
Everyone is aware of the usual swimming pool-related hazards, such as the slippery surfaces that can result in trips and falls, or the ever-present danger of drowning. Less well known, however, are the risks associated withthe handling of chlorine.
When the chlorine powder used to dose the swimming pool is mishandled, it can give off a gas that, if inhaled in a large enough quantity, can actually be lethal.
“There was an incident a couple of years ago at one of the major hotels in Dubai. A gentleman was putting some chlorine into a dosing system and a pump started at the wrong time and threw the chlorine all around the pump room,” says Sloan.
“At first the gentleman thought he was OK, and he tried to clear up all the spilled chemical. After about 10 minutes he was overcome and when he got outside the pump room he fainted. He was taken away by ambulance and he died a few hours later in hospital.”
This tragic account starkly illustrates the worst possible outcome of a chlorine mishandling incident. Thankfully, according to Sloan, not all the accidents with the chemical are quite so extreme. He points out, however, that even minor mishaps can have a disastrous effect for a hotel’s reputation.
“At another hotel that we dealt with recently, the staff were having to ventilate the pump room for several hours before they could go in. We took chlorine gas detectors into the area and found that even after they had aired the room out they had still not purged it of all the gas. [In a situation like that] there is the potential to harm your guests or staff,” Sloan says.
“When you’re dealing with a five-star establishment, the last thing a general manager needs is a mistake that could have been prevented, and having a guest injured results in very bad press. The saying goes that all publicity is good publicity, but that’s not always true. ‘Guest Dies From Chlorine Mishandling at Hotel X’ is not the kind of headline a general manager ever wants to see about his hotel.”
This is where the Aquaclear system comes in, Sloan says. While the system still makes use of chlorine as a disinfectant, it removes the need for chlorine to be handled as part of the daily pool maintenance process. Instead, the chemical is manufactured in-situ.
The Aquaclear System is installed in the pool filtration circuit and a small amount of salt is added to the pool water. Then, when the saltwater passes through the unit, the automated system converts the salt into chlorine via an electro-chemical reaction. The chlorine is then heavily diluted with water and passed back into the pool.
“The chlorine returned is at low levels, so it is perfectly safe for the swimmers but sufficient to kill any bacteria and micro-organisms present in the water,” Sloan explains. “As the chlorine disinfects it is consumed and subsequently turns back into salt, ready to be converted again. The cycle is continuous, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
The system is microprocessor-based and can be tied in to a hotel’s property management systems. In addition, Aquaclear has 24-hour SMS monitoring, so that in the event of any problem, a message can be sent to the engineer or the general manger’s mobile phone. Generally, however, the first level of alarm usually sends an alert to the Compass Middle East offices, where most problems can be rectified remotely via modem.
“The benefits for swimmers include no more sore eyes and no damage to the hair or skin. The oxidation caused by the reaction that makes the chlorine actually gives the water what we call a ‘polished’ effect, making it absolutely sparkle, so there’s also a cosmetic value as well.
And, most importantly, hotel managers can relax, secure in the knowledge that anything happening in their swimming pool will be instantly reported to them on a real time basis,” says Sloan. “This allows them concentrate fully on with their primary task — looking after all their guests.”||**||