We can’t all live around the corner from a lake or the ocean. For many people, swimming involves pools and the chemicals that are used to keep them clean. As the evidence linking chlorinated water to health problems continues to mount, it is time we make a commitment to managing pool water that leaves people and the environment unharmed. Barry Thompson from the Chaos Waterpark in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, has partnered with a company that uses sphagnum moss to clean the park’s pools naturally. Saving water, cutting chemical use, increasing profits, and reducing red eyes, Thompson and others are showing that we can have natural and healthy water in our pools without compromising quality or profitability.
Without knowing any better, I would think a pool with a simple filtration system to remove debris would keep the water clean. After all, isn’t water the universal solvent? After a little research, I learned that bromine, chlorine, and other chemicals are needed because pools do not have a continual water exchange as it is in a lake. In addition to reusing the same water, pools are also often warm and – unless they are used for skateboarding – wet, which creates ideal conditions for bacterial growth.
Creative Water Solutions is a growing company based in Minnesota that has found a simple and very effective method for eliminating bacteria from spa and pool water by breaking up the biofilm. According to research at Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State University, biofilm creates an environment that allows bacteria to attach to the water surface. Left untreated, bacteria colonies will enlarge and small bits will break off to form new colonies. The chemicals traditionally used to treat bacteria only kill those on the edges of the biofilm, leaving most of the colony unharmed and ready to multiple, quickly replacing those brave – or maybe just unlucky – bacteria that were lost on the front lines. When pool attendants see that bacteria counts remain high, they typically add more chemicals in an attempt to control the situation. This routine practice often fails to solve the problem and, in many cases, creates health issues for patrons.
At the end of 2011, a study was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, showing that over 60% of people experienced Exercise Induced Bronchoconstriction (EIB) after only a few minutes of swimming in chlorinated pools. This technical term basically means it becomes more difficult to breathe, and the study found that even athletes with no previous breathing issues were subject to EIB.
Eye irritation is another side effect to which most pool swimmers can relate. The quotes on the Creative Water Solutions websites rave about the lack of chlorine smell, no eye redness, and even no dry skin. In additional to protecting customer health, using moss to filter pool water actually makes Thompson’s job at Chaos Waterpark safer and easier. His biggest surprise was how simple changing the filters is with the new system. He also likes the decreased maintenance, which is a result of fewer chemicals in the water and air leading to less of the major corrosion issues water parks typically face.
The decrease in resources used to run Chaos Waterpark is quite impressive. After installing the moss filtration system, the park now utilizes 90% fewer pool chemicals. Thompson is also able to decrease the water used to flush the park every year from one and a half million gallons just 150,000 gallons. In addition to this savings, much of the water that previously left the facility as waste water is now being cleaned with the moss filtration devices which allow Chaos to recycle its water back into the park, saving an additional 375,000 gallons of water every three months.
Sphagnum moss filtration is an excellent example of how items found in nature can be used to reduce the chemicals used in many of today’s products. The current sustainability revolution provides an opportunity to re-engineer all aspects of our modern lifestyle. I look forward to sharing more about such innovative companies as Creative Water Solutions and forward-thinking business leaders like Barry Thompson, to provide examples of how anyone can move into a triple bottom line economy.