New UV systems provide healthier water at OPC pools

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published September 12, 2017

ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Swimmers who do laps, exercise classes or therapy sessions at one of the two pools at the Older Persons’ Commission are now swimming in healthier water, thanks to two new ultraviolet filtering systems.

“We wanted to provide the best water and air quality possible, and it turns out that the ultraviolet disinfection system is just the way to do that. It provides cleaner water, cleaner air, and it will ultimately save us on some of our chemical costs,” said Victor Dorer, head of facility operations at the OPC.

The new UV systems — which were installed last month — allow the water in the senior center’s lap and therapy pools to be passed through separate filters and pumps, treated with UV lights and pumped back directly into their own pools. The process, Dorer said, kills about 99 percent of harmful organisms — including micro-organisms, viruses, bacteria and algae.

“It kills a lot of organic contaminants that are in the water that sometimes chlorine alone or your normal disinfectants just don’t get,” he explained. “In addition to killing things like fungi and certain other bacteria, like giardia, it is also effective in eliminating the combined chlorines that are left in the water after your chlorine has done the job and killed off the organic matter.”

The UV filtration system reduces combined chlorines, also known as chloramines, in a pool by almost 100 percent.

“We saw a change in our pools where we were running anywhere from 0.3 to 0.4 parts per million of chloramines down to zero. It was pretty amazing,” Dorer said. “Your combined chlorine — which is the stuff that has already killed the germs but has attached ions to it — is the stuff that leaves the stink in the pool. If you have ever been in a hotel and you walk in the front door and right away you smell the chlorine, you are not smelling the smell of the actual liquid chlorine itself, you are smelling the combined chlorines, which is a residual byproduct of the disinfection.”

The UV light filters also allow the OPC to reduce the chlorine content in its pools by up to 40 percent, reducing chemical costs for the OPC and providing many benefits to pool users.

“The system will assure the water is as clean as possible, while also combating the high chlorine levels that cause poor air quality, red eyes, dry skin, faded suits, and the unpleasant smell and side effect for the swimmers. By adding these two UV filters, we essentially are keeping the OPC members much healthier,” said Matthew Spierling, OPC’s fitness and aquatics director.

And it makes swimmers breathe a little easier, Dorer explained.

“We had a couple of people who were asthmatic or sensitive to the chlorine smell. One person in particular had to avoid swimming here because of her issues with the air quality, and she is now able to come back and swim,” he said.

Spierling said swimming classes are a big draw for OPC members. The senior center holds three to five classes per day in its four-lane, 82,000-gallon lap pool — which is used for water exercises and lap swimming — as well as its 28,000-gallon therapy pool, which is used for water exercise classes and for people who want to massage achy muscles and joints.

“Now that we have this secondary system, our pool water is essentially always clean, even during our busiest times,” he said.

The UV filtration systems have been operational for about a month, and Spierling said swimmers have already noticed the benefits.

“It is quite remarkable, and the seniors definitely have noticed. The ones that were not using the pool because of chlorine sensitivities are now using our facility again,” he said.

OPC officials have had the UV filtration systems — which Dorer said cost the center approximately $60,000 — as a budget line item since 2015.

“We knew that this was coming up, and we had taken competitive bids on this and investigated various systems,” he explained. “In the end, what it really provides is the finest-quality water for our members to utilize for their aquatic exercises — whether that be lap swimming or going in to stretch their joints in the therapy pool.”

The OPC, located at 650 Letica Drive in Rochester, is a nonprofit serving people 50 and older in Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township. For more information, call (248) 656-1403 or visit www.opcseniorcenter.org.