Sunday, April 22, 2007

Environmentally Unconscious

I learned something more about the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District ordinance banning salt water pools. And I learned it not from some left coast tree hugging environmental website - though I do tend to gravitate that way - but from an archive issue of Industrial Water World’s on line magazine. These are pretty much industrial wastewater management folks. Not folks you would readily connect with a vast left wing conspiracy to undermine the poor misunderstood Salt Peddlers out there. Here’s the link:

You have to sign up to be able to get to it. It’s free. Sign up and then type "salt ban" in the search engine and the second article on the search return is:

"Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District adopts ordinance banning saltwater pools
Officials continue to combat chloride discharge to protect Santa Clara River"

The article’s pretty much a rehashing of information I’ve already published in this blog about the salt ban. But it contained one piece of information I didn’t know:

"Swimming pools [in the Santa Clarita Valley] contribute about 125 pounds of salt per day, or about half of a percent of the chloride now entering the sewer system. If there is widespread conversion to saltwater pools, it could increase up to nine fold. If salt levels discharged into the river do not decrease, the Sanitation District may have to install new treatment equipment, possibly more than quadrupling Valley residents' annual sewer bills ..."

So, simple math would indicate that, if left unchecked, the Salt System business in the Santa Clarita Valley could increase up to a 4.5% level of contribution to the chloride discharge problem. Lucky for Santa Clarita pool builders, most pools aren’t plumbed to the sewer because building code doesn’t require it. So they just roll out the old backwash hose and let it spew... into the ground, eventually affecting the groundwater, or into a storm drain, which isn’t connected to the sewer system for waste treatment at all. Everybody keeps telling me I ought to keep my mouth shut about this issue, because it’s the only one I’ve really gotten any flack over. But I’m arguing with a guy who preaches and teaches ways around this ordinance so he and others can keep selling $1200 Salt Boxes. Amazing. As I’ve said before, Bizarro Pool World.

There’s some other news that I think will eventually affect the Salt Peddlers. It’s out of Scottsdale, Arizona. Here’s the link:

The gist of it is, golf courses in Scottsdale use 24 million gallons of water per day to irrigate their courses. But they use treated wastewater. You see, back in the early 1990's, the golf courses ponied up about $12 million to switch over to treated wastewater to get everybody off their backs about using potential drinking water. Trying to be good neighbors and good corporate citizens and all. But now, the grass on the gold courses is starting to decline because of the higher salt content of that wastewater.

And guess where that salt is coming from? Salt pools? Well, yes. But right now they’ve got their sights set on the water softener folks. Here’s why: "Art Nunez, water and wastewater treatment director at the water campus, said rising salt content of the irrigation water can be attributed to Scottsdale’s increased use of Colorado River water over the last two decades, and to the proliferation of water softeners in the city’s north... Increased use of water softeners also has contributed to the level of salt in wastewater, Nunez said... Each softener consumes about 40 pounds to 50 pounds of salt per month, which is flushed into the wastewater system, he said."

So, they’re pushing to speed up a $25 million water project, and add about $23 million to it to accomodate methods to reduce the salinity of wastewater discharge. And the reason that Scottsdale is probably going to say yes is because their golf courses generate "more that $6.2 million in tax revenue for Scottsdale in the peak January-to-April golf season".

How much tax revenue do water softeners and salt pools generate? Gee, I wonder who’s going to win?

The guy who is pushing all this is a fellow named Tim Bray. He’s a consultant with Southwest Community Resources. He’s also on the Board of Directors of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District.

Yeah, I know. Another liberal tree hugger out to strip the poor Salt Peddlers of their right to make oodles of money selling you environmentally unsound technology. But Mr. Bray hasn’t said anything about swimming pool salt systems yet. And to make sure he hasn’t overlooked them, I’m going to send him a letter pointing out the issues in Santa Clarita Valley.

So, you see, first it was Santa Clarita. Now, it’s going to be Scottsdale. Face it. It’s coming to a water district near you. Just wait and see. Salt System manufacturers are baling water on failed technology. And it’s not going to be pool damage that’s going to sink them. It’s going to be the environment. The environment and Rich Guys in Golf Carts. Wait till they hear that keeping salt water in their pool means teeing off on Astro Turf.

Speaking of pool damage... Here’s some nifty photos I took a while back. I was called out to work on a pump. It’s a five year old salt pool. Stamped concrete deck, pebble surface, and LOTS of Oklahoma flagstone for a waterfall that extends across the whole backside of the pool. The pool cost $100,000.

This first photo shows the inside of the difuser. The difuser shrouds the impeller, which is the deivce at the heart of your pump that moves all the water. That’s what’s left of a brass insert after five years of salt water. By the way, click on any of the photos to make them bigger.

Here’s what it looked like when it was new. Click to Enlarge

Here’s the old difuser and the new difuser side by side. I don’t know what the brown patina is. Click to Enlarge.

But it shows up on the shaft seal too. Click to Enlarge.

And the end result is stains on the pebble finish. Click to Enlarge.

These stains are just like the stains on the pool I posted about last week. Is it from the galvanic corrosion going on? The stray currents corrosion? Or maybe just salt contaminated with iron oxide. What? Never heard of contaminated salt? It’s only five bucks a bag and it’s not food grade. What did you expect?

Another thing you can see in the photo of the slotted return is the little pile of light brown dust down in the lower right hand corner. That dust is all over the pool. It’s there because the salt is dissolving all of this Oklahoma flagstone into the pool. Click to Enlarge.

That whole wall is a waterfall. The water comes rushing out from in between those rocks from one end to the other. It’s very impressive when it’s running. That’s where a lot of that $100,000 went. They’ve stopped running it much because of the issues of dissolving the flagstone into the pool.

Last but not least, we have these unexplained stains on the stamped concrete.

These little white spots disappear when the deck is wet, but show up as soon as it dries again. Nothing takes them off. They showed up when the pool was just under a year old. The owner made the builder come back out and strip the finish off the stamped concrete and reapply it. One year later the spots showed up again. Click to Enlarge.

It makes me wonder if stamped concrete is going to go the way of Cool Seal decks when it comes to salt damage.

Well, that’s all the news that fits. See you next week. And, in case you missed it, Click to Enlarge.


Dan - Tuc. AZ said...

Very interesting... And, I didn't forget to expand the pics, very nice.

I am looking forward to learning more about this, hence why I keep checking your blog.

Just wondering, what is your preferred method of sanitation in a pool/spa?

The Pool Guy said...

I don't have a preferred method. Being a Texas Poolman, what I'm used to is tricholr tabs and cal hypo for shocking. Our water is about 120 ppm calcium out of the tap here in the city, so cal hypo doesn't really overload the pool with calcium and if you keep an eye on your cyanurates, the trichlor is'nt really very problematic. But keeping an eye on it is easier said than done. Draining to dilute all of your pools each year is hard to keep up with.

I have one pool on a dichlor feeder, and while I have found it to be a reliable unit and gentler chlorine (near neutral pH)it introduces even more cyanuric acid, requiring even more frequent diluting.

I ran pools on tabs and liquid chlorine in southern California and that made sense for the water conditions - very hard out of the tap which ruled out calcium products for shocking.

There is no single answer to your question. It depends on where you live and what your water conditions are.

It's like automatic cleaners. Here in Dallas, the only thing that really keeps up with the type of debris is a Polaris 280, with the Letro Legend Platinum in close pursuit. Because suction side cleaners just don't work here. They run about three feet and clog with leaves. Whereas in southern CA, you can't give away a Polaris while Hayward Navigators and Kreepys rule the world.

Every market and region has it's differences. But the only thing that sucks everywhere is salt (you knew that was coming... right?)

poolsean said...

TPG - I'm not sure I understand the logic of your site anymore. I've bit my tongue and withheld communicating with you but this completely baffles me.
Your photo's are VERY helpful in explaining what the damage looks like but they also discredit your blog entries. The "expand the pictures" is very nice and helps to prove my points!

You complain of salt damaging these pools. You show photos of deck damage. You show photos of eroded heater components. You show grout lines eroded and missing. You show stains on the pump diffuser, shaft seal, and return jets (and surrounding area).
Yet in spite of all this, there is nothing consistent about your weekly blog entries other than your displeasure with salt chlorine generators and with us "salt peddlers"?

To be fair, are you saying that you have never seen the discoloration of the return jets or surrounding surface and diffusers, or the erosion of a heater bypass check valve, or a similar deck and coping damage such as in the photos you're providing, from NON-salt pools?

To be fair, can you also provide water chemistry values of these pools exhibiting damage? Free and Total Chlorine, Total Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness, Cya levels, TDS, pH, and Salinity would be a good start.
The "Saturation Index" can reveal much.

Question: If salt causes damage to all pools that go through the wet/dry cycle of the salt water on decks and coping (and now you're adding equipment being in contact with salt chlorine generator pools - oh yeah, I forgot...electrolysis) why are all your photos of the horrible deck damage salt causes also showing NO problems with the grout joints, except the ONE photo of the grout joint missing (oddly, the deck looks perfect). Why are the photos of the tile at pool water level not showing any signs of damage to the tile or grout line there?
Why are the holes that attach the diffuser to the seal plate not showing any signs of corrosion of the stainless steel screws? Certainly you would have shown the damage that salt and electrolysis did to these screws? In fact, wouldn't these screws be more damaged than the shaft seal? Certainly they're in contact with the salt water more so than the shaft seal.
Your reply to this would be interesting.

Take a look inside any tri-chlor erosion feeder tank and tell me the discoloration that you see on the diffuser is not the same as the discoloration in the tank.

It's not fair to play on the ignorance of people reading these highly biased entries, without fair consideration to mention the "OTHER" factors that can cause these same problems. Bad water chemistry, high chlorine levels, high salt levels, bad make up water, metals (iron and copper) in the water, etc...
And as usual, you've determined that SALT is to blame, regardless of logic.

Final question and I'll leave you alone, but I've asked before and still have never seen you respond to:
Of all the SALT pools you service (which at one time you mentioned to be over 40 of your over 100 customers), do you see these same issues on ALL of them? Conversly, have you ever see similar type damage to any of your NON-salt pools?

But then again, it's your bat and ball. I'd be surprised if you provide honest replies to my questions.

Sean Assam
Commercial Products Sales Specialist
AquaCal AutoPilot Inc.
Manufacturer of the AutoPilot Salt Chlorine Generator and Aqua Cal Heat Pumps

The Pool Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Pool Guy said...

Did you ever watch Saturday Night Live back in the heydays. Back when John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin were chewing up every scene they were in? Remember that 60 Minutes point-counterpoint spoof Jane and Dan used to do, and how after Jane would drivel on for a few minutes about something truly stupid, Dan would start off his response with, "Jane, you ignorant slut"? Remember that? Those bits were so funny.

I don't know what made me think of that. I was just reading your comment and I started thinking of old Saturday Night Live bits. How Odd.

You're right, Sean. This is my blog and I have wasted so much time talking to you that I really don't owe you a single answer to any of your "hear no evil, see no evil" rants. You are the man that Upton Sinclair had in mind when he said, ""It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

It doesn't matter what I say. It doesn't matter what evidence I collect. It doesn't matter what photos I take. It doesn't matter how much damage salt systems do to pools, you're still going to keep selling them. Because your mortgage depends on it.

You are absolutely incapable of hearing anything I say without your Salt Is Great Filter on. For example, you don't care and will swear it's not happening when in the next few weeks I start talking about impingement corrosion. You probably don't even know what it is, but I'm already sure that you're sure that your salt technology isn't responsible. Because you have a "yeah but" answer for everything, Sean.

Why don't you do this: Get Your Own Blog. They're free. That was the point of that link I posted in another response to you, the one that you didn't get because when you went there, there was no blogging going on.


That was the last guy who got all fired up and was going to have an Anti Pool Guy blog of his own. He created the blog, logged in as Also A Pool Guy, and then never posted a word. Why don't you outdo him and give me my comeuppance.

You can spread all your manure without any interference from me. All that stuff you "teach" at your seminars, like that disinformation about the level of taste for sodium chloride in water being around 3500 ppm.

You're right, Sean. I'm not going to answer any of your silly, shopworn questions. You are the R. D. Peters of the Pool Business. You can't even be insulted into going away.

I'm sure you'll write again. It's just in your nature. And just so's you know, I only post your comments because they are so laughable. I figure that anybody who reads them, while they may still buy a salt system, surely won't buy it from you.

Dan - Tuc. AZ said...

Did I just get called, "ignorant"?? Oh well, I can take it. I only have a minute, but I was wondering, are those screws on the diffuser grounded? I don’t think they are. Sorry, that was most likely an ignorant question. Well, truth be told, I am ignorant about much of this stuff. But, I can maintain a pool with low levels of chlorine residual and rarely if ever add other things to keep it clear. (Using trichlor tabs) Just good overall water balance… Simple stuff.

My thoughts so far, and not based on what I read here, but more from what I see in working situations, the salt system would not be my choice.

The Pool Guy said...


My last comment was in response to Sean's comments. Not yours. He sends endless Chatty Chathy kind of comments for the blog. I used to try to answer his questions, even though I knew that if he were to admit that anything I say is right he would have to quit being a part of salt systems sales. And as his livelihood depends on it, he just sends these antagonistic little hyperboles instead, without giving even a cursory glance at any answers I might provide. Like this last one, where he wonders why I only show pictures of damaged limestone and not pictures of damaged glazed tile, as if those two products are even in the same realm of porosity. You see, at Sean World, all damage to pools is either poor workmanship, poor water chemistry, and above all, somebody else's fault. Even if it it is only salt pools that fall apart a year or two after construction.

So, to answer your question; no, I did not call you ignorant. And it isn't an ignorant question to ask about whether the difuser screws are grounded. I don't think they are. They thread into metal, but it is a metal jacket set in plastic, so they are not connected, metal on metal, to ground.

Dan - Tuc. AZ said...

I really was not referring to your comments, more to Sean's as he mentioned in his post, "play on the ignorance of people reading these highly biased entries”, and it got me wondering about my own skills! I am reading your posts, but I like to think that I am smart enough to come to my own conclusions in the end... I have many recently switched over to salt system pools that I can observe, (Not under my care, but someone who will inform me of issues), so I am just waiting to see.