Sunday, June 29, 2008
The 2.6 Million Dollar Salt System (cont.)
Well, today I'm doing something that I've never done before on this blog. There was a rather long blog piece that followed that opening paragraph. A little piece of detective work where I tried to put together disparate pieces of the puzzle about what happened with the indoor wave pool at the Southland Leisure Centre, and about halfway through the day I received a very lucid explanation of why I was wrong in some of my assumptions. So, I have deleted the rest of this post.
In it's place, I am posting the contents of an e-mail I received from Mr. Ron Krell, the manager of the Southland Leisure Centre. He talks a lot about the entire renovation of the Centre and all of the contributing factors. I found it all interesting. But if you just want to specifically know How The Salt System Ate The Leisure Centre, I've highlighted those passages. The emphasis (bold print; italics) is mine.
Hi there: I had the opportunity to read your blog and I wanted to let you know that your comments about the renovation and lifecycle replacement of 25 year old equipment are a bit off the mark. It is somewhat understandable as you are not privy to all the information about the project and only gleaning snippets of information from various sources.
I will provide some further background that may assist in clarifying how some of the work for the Southland Leisure Centre project came to be and how that relates to some of your comments and observations. The original renovation that was approved by City Council was for $8 million and approved in June 2006. This was to include upgrades and updating to the Southland Leisure Centre Locker Rooms, add an Aquaplay Family Water Feature, Steamroom, New Fitness Expansion Area with new fitness equipment, Elevator and Accessible Service Counter. The Council approved funding also allowed for painting most of the common areas and pool to provide for an updated look to complete this portion of the renovations as well as a Council mandated Public Art Project which is part of the Capital funding formula. This funding had been provided to keep the Centre updated and make improvements so that our base of Customers would continue to enjoy using it and of course, attract new users. If you have had the opportunity to use the Centre in the last few years, for example, you would not have been impressed with the locker rooms as they were impossible to keep clean, i.e. old tiling, old grout that was difficult to repair and clean, damaged lockers, etc…….many areas were in need of updating………nothing worse than coming into a public facility and finding it in poor condition in spite of our best efforts to make the old stuff look good!
As for the Salt System……a decision was made in 2004 to install a Salt Lectranator system at Southland. It was installed in November 2004 as an add on to our current pool system with the intent that it would replace Chlorine Gas (as you know Chlorine Gas is a volatile, dangerous and difficult substance to work with). The filtration was a DE (Diatemacous Earth) based system. The intent to replace the chlorine gas with the salt system as recommended by a Consultant showed that such a system could work in a large wave pool provided that the proper number of Lectranator cells were specified. Based on this information, the project went ahead. Since the original install date in November 2004, the salt system never quite seemed to work properly, i.e. did not produce enough Chlorine to meet the demand. As a result, the Consultant determined that the lectranator system must have been slightly undersized and additional cells were added in March 2005. Even after the upsized installation, the system never met its targets and further to that, we began experiencing salt issues in our mechanical areas, exposed metal surfaces, humidification systems, etc….
The system did not perform and the situation was deteriorating. As you can imagine, the entire system was original (25 years old) with the exception of the newer salt lectranators. In April 2007, I started as the Manager of this Leisure Centre. After a review of the mechanical areas, the aging equipment, the noticeable salt damage and concerns with our inability to meet chlorine demand versus bather load, concerns with DE (carcinogenic material), leaking and corroded piping, large amounts of staff time trying to troubleshoot the system, assurances from the supplier that the system would work when it repeatedly became more apparent that it was not working, etc…..………It was decided with the support of the Director of Recreation and the General Manager of Community Services to approach City Council outlining the concerns about this situation. As a result of a report to Council in June 2007, approval was given for a further $2.6 million to update the pool system at the Southland Leisure Centre. The salt system and DE were removed and replaced with Liquid Chlorine, UV and Sand Filters along with an older boiler system, piping, etc…. and ……..we know that these systems work well and will position us to operate more efficiently and effectively for the next 20+ years.
In today's dollars, the Southland Leisure Centre's replacement value is in the neighbourhood of $125 million and has approx. 1.8 million visitors per year. The decision to update and upgrade the pool mechanical systems was not taken lightly and the expenditure is a positive one to protect the long term operational integrity of this facility. As you can see, the $8 million and the $2.6 million came about as separate projects. As well, I recognize that some of the facts and assumptions that you flagged were taken from bits and pieces of information, media, etc……..Please note that the Village Square Leisure Centre renovation was also approved by Council in June 2006 in the amount of $8 million. They do 'not' have a salt system, but do have gas chlorine which will be changed out as part of their project. That Centre is also 25 years old and in need of various lifecycle replacements, updating, etc……..
This is the first time that I have viewed your information and I appreciate the opportunity to provide some information that may help clarify why we did the system change here at the Southland Leisure Centre. If you have any questions, please contact me at the numbers provided below.
Ron Krell Manager
Southland Leisure Centre # 159
So there you have it. No need to speculate any more. It wasn't high free available chlorine with no stabilizer that caused all that corrosion, as so many members of the Head In The Sand Society have speculated. You have it right here, in the words of the manager who had to deal with all of this. Truth is, the Lectranator never even produced enough chlorine to meet bather load. it's hard to imagine not enough free available chlorine could have destroyed the Leisure Centre equipment in some 31 months, when sufficient free available chlorine from gas cylinders hadn't done it in the twenty plus years prior.
It is exactly as I've always said; It's the Salt, Folks. It's the Salt.
But there's more.
I worte back to Mr. Krell seeeking permission to publish his e-mails in this blog. His response (oncea again, emphasis is mine);
Hi: sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I would be comfortable with you printing my response for your blog....I cannot remove the non disclosure statement as that is automatically added to all of our emails at work. However, I would approve your reprinting my wording verbatim as long as it is stated factually. Would that work for you?? Let me know what you think.
Also, I would be interested to hear more information about salt systems.................my opinion based on the experience here is that I believe that salt systems can work in smaller applications without too much difficulty.....however, I don't trust salt over the longer period as I think that it eventually permeates the equipment and corrodes it.
Mid-size Wave Pools can utilize it with mixed results, i.e. Collicut Centre in Red Deer, but will show damage to equipment eventually. That Centre opened in 2000 and it is showing signs of salt damage here in 2008.....not as bad as what we experienced at Southland, but enough to be of concern.
Large Wave Pools seems to be a non-starter for a salt application. It failed at Millwoods Pool in Edmonton and now had very poor results here at the Southland Leisure Centre (230,000 gallon US). I am not sure that the Engineering Consultant had enough information about salt to determine that it could not work.....I believe that they took the approach that the system designed for Millwoods was undersized and that by merely upsizing the salt lectranators, they could achieve the perfect operating formula. It did not work as outlined in my previous email. I suspect that they were surprised by this, as we were.
My guess is that salt in the larger applications with large bather loads reaches a threshold level at which point the salt cannot convert to chlorine as quickly as required and even adding additional salt cells does not make a difference.....reaches a saturation point. I am not a chemist, but it is the closest that I can come to describing the situation based on my Grade 12 and University Chemistry courses.
I would not be able to prove this theory, but my experience tells that that I am probably not far off on this one. Your thoughts??
So, we're not just talking about a single facility that experienced heavy and expensive corrosion as a result of installing Lectranator commercial salt systems. According to Mr. Krell, "it failed at Millwood", "had very poor results" at his facility, and after eight years, Colicut Centre in Red Deer "is showing signs of salt damage", "enough to be concerned".
It turns out it's just a matter of time and they all experience these issues. I'm going to try to contact some of these facilities to find out more about their unique situations. Seems to me that with all this Public Money being spent to fix the issues wrought by Salt Chlorine Generation, that some bright-eyed reporter at the CBC should be interested in what is apparently common knowledge among the folks working with these systems in an indoor environment.
Since he'd asked for my thoughts, I wrote back to Mr. Krell and gave him as condensed a version as I could of why I think it's utter insanity to install a salt system on any pool or spa:
My opinion is that the core issue with salt systems is that they use salt. Salt is a corrosive. There's no way around it. All chlorine ends up putting salt (sodium chloride) into our pool or spa water. The new system you mentioned that you've installed on your wave pool, the liquid chlorine feeder, has one of the highest salt contents of any of the bottled/packaged sanitizers. But it's still nowhere near the level of salt that we start with on a salt pool. Typically, our tap water is below 250 ppm (parts per million) chloride. That's been established here in the US as the "level of taste" by EPA and it's the target that most water districts shoot for. So, with a freshly filled pool, that's where you start. Then you introduce sanitizer. Over time, you will increase that sodium chloride level to as much as 1,500 ppm or 2,000 ppm. Usually, that takes years. And especially in something like a wave pool, where so much water is aerated and lost and you're constantly introducing low chloride fill water to make up for it, you may never see those elevated sodium chloride levels. But even if you do someday end up with that high sodium chloride level, you will also have accompanying elevated levels of calcium and manganese and iron and copper and everything else that's in our water supply system and that bathers end up excreting into our pools. That's the point that, before salt systems came along, we would drain and refill our pools. The old standard was 3,000 ppm TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) maximum.
So, we never had reason to worry too much about all the different mechanisms by which sodium chloride could damage our pools and our pool enclosures. There would be isolated incidences of pool enclosure roof collapses, and the investigation would usually point chloride stress corrosion of the supporting bolts. But as a whole, industrywide, these were very isolated instances.
Both of those links cite the same instance of a pool enclosure roof collapse due to chloride stress corrosion.
However, the use of calcium chloride as an accelerator in the mixing of concrete has been cited in many instances as the main contributor to subsequent chloride stress corrosion that results in the earlier than anticipated failure of metal bolts and support structures worldwide.
So, as you see, it doesn't matter where the chloride comes from, the result is the same; premature aging of the components of whatever structure we are trying to maintain, whether it be a bridge or a swimming pool or it's enclosure... or the bolts in a waterslide.
This is the point where I feel that my industry has departed from reality on the subject, and I think it's for no other reason than greed. Upton Sinclair once said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
And therein lies our problem. The internet is lousy with reports of salt damage to everything in nature. Ask a metallurgist at what level salt will corrode and they'll most likely tell you that, in the right circumstances, pitted against the right substance, salt will corrode at levels as low as 10 and 20 ppm. Ask a highway maintenance engineer what the number one cause of road damage is and he'll tell you it's the salt they use to keep the roads clear in the winter.
The things you've told me in your last e-mail support what I'm saying - and what scientists have been saying for hundreds of years. You mentioned that a mid sized wave pool in Collicut Centre in Red Deer is showing signs of salt damage after 8 years. Your own wave pool showed signs thirty-one months after salt system installation. I have met customers who had stainless steel filter tanks and put salt systems on their residential pools, and within one year they had to buy a new fiberglass filter (about $1,200 for a residential model) and by the next year, their limestone coping and decks were spalled and looked thirty years old instead of two or three. None of these things would have occurred and the normal life cycles in each of these instances would have been 20 and 30 years without salt (I service some stainless steel DE filters that are easily 20 years old, on non-salt pools, of course).
Yet, the pool industry is simply ignoring science so that they have another gadget to sell to pool owners. And it's a gadget that comes with a significant after market. Salt cells, even the best ones out there, are typically rated for about 10,000 hours of operation. In a commercial environment, with 24 hour a day operation, that's not much more than a year. And from everything I can find, manufacturers customarily provide a one year warranty for commercial use. When you imagine the after market in salt cell sales - at $500 to $800 per cell - if every pool were converted to salt chlorine generation, it's easy to see why it's hard to get objective information from the manufacturers. And it's impossible to see where the highly touted savings over other chlorination methods comes in.
I know I'm starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist here. That's not it. I just feel that the sale of salt systems has become Sales and Marketing without Borders. There is applicable research that's been done on the effects of salt on every component that makes up every configuration of a swimming pool. There is research on it's effects on stone, concrete, metals - such as copper, aluminum, brass, cupro nickel, and all types of stainless steel - and in every instance, the research proves that damage is accelerated proportional to the increase in chloride levels over background.
Further, there is abundant research available on the debilitating effects of stray current corrosion on submerged or partially submerged metals - such as ladders, rails, lights, light conduit, heater heat exchangers, etc. Stray current corrosion is often called "electrolysis", the very process whereby we create chlorine from salt. For example. I replaced a 20 amp fuse on a residential salt system the other day. That fuse provided power to the salt cell. Hence, that salt cell was receiving just shy of 20 amps of current from plate to plate, in the water, up until that fuse blew. Stray current corrosion is usually measured in milliamps. There are indications of it's damage nearly everywhere a salt system is installed. There are now pool specialty equipment companies that sell zinc anodes to mute the effects of stray current corrosion. Yet the manufacturers continue to insist that it doesn't exist, that because they met UL 1081 standards in a laboratory environment, that the discussion is off the table.
Well, that's all the news that fit to print for this installment. Happy Trails to all you Salt Reps trying to work up snappy comebacks when this stuff comes up in your Lying Contests.., I mean Sales Seminars.
TPG one day, when i will have some spare time on my hands i will make a collection of stories when people died from using non-SWG chlorine sources. Just for you my friend, so you can compare ;)
Even when the comments are so pathetic.
You're the guy who sells the salt systems Down Under that run at even higher salt levels than the ones here in the US. Your Owner's Manuals recommends 5,000 ppm. No wonder you're having such a hard time introducing it here in the US.
Just think, if the Southland Leisure Centre had used your system instead of the Lectranator, they'd have had their corrosion issues in about 20 months instead of 31 months. (If you need for me to work the math for you on that, just let me know).
And it's not really the Chief Engineer who ought to be fired. It's the Salt Sales & Tech Reps that didn't foresee all that salt spray going airborne and destroying the Leisure Centre equipment. Did you not read what the man said? I quote; "mechanical areas, exposed metal surfaces, humidification systems". We call that Latent Defects here in the Good Old US of A. Or don't you have product liability laws in Australia? That would certainly explain why so many of your pools run on salt.
I love your "one of these days" lines. I get that a lot from you crackpots. But the truth is, you'll never stop and gather all that data together in one spot like I've done here with this blog. You'll just shoot your mouth off about "someday" and crack wise in all the forums and anyplace else that'll publish your pablum.
And you know what else you are? You're the only Salt Rep who's been reckless enough to take the other side of such a clear cut case of a misapplication of salt chlorine generation. Even the folks who sold this system to the Leisure Centre, who initially touted articles about what a smashing success the salt wave pool was, have pulled all those articles and the associated advertising from their product catalogs.
So, why don't you write back and tell everyone what system you rep for?
What? Nothing to say now?
Thanks for writing, Strannik. Guys like you make my job so much easier.
The fact that we recommend 5000 ppm is because the higher the salt, the cheaper it is to run the system and the longer the cell will last.
And guess what? The whole of Australia has been running at 5000 ppm and will be running for a long time. And who said I'm having hard time introducing it to USA?
We do have product liabilities. We just don't have problems with running on salt. That's precise reason why in Australia this is preferred way of sanitation :)
With regards to "one of those days" line, as hard as it may be to believe, some of us got other commitments apart from blogging away about something. As i have said to you in my e-mail: for a guy who has no time (as you claimed) your e-mails and blogs seem to be rather long.
It's always Chief Engineer's responsibility. He is the one who is making the decision, not the Salt Rep. When i was responsible for product development, and i would say to the boss: "Oh it's not my fault, the guy told me it will work great" - I would be fired the same instant. But I guess in USA you are used to blaming hot coffee on McDonalds, attempting to dry pets in a microwave on microwave manufacturers and so on. I guess people who take responsibility for their decisions and actions are a rare commodity over the ditch nowadays?:)
And here we come to another lie of yours. I've noticed that you do that a lot. Where did my post say anything about SWG being right for that application? My whole post screams "misapplication". Yet there you are, blogging away about evil Salt reps :)
And yet another lie: I'm not a sales rep. I've repeated it to you several times, and yet you still choose to lie in your blog and call me that.
If you think that for some reason i would be ashamed to put my name behind the systems my company sells - you are wrong. Our company (TD Consulting) sell AutoChlor equipment. I'm not afraid to put my name behind this system, because I contributed significantly to the development of them, and I have far more knowledge about them than you do.
Lie #3: I'm not employed by AutoChlor, and in no way my mortgage repayments depend on profits from selling AutoChlor.
Ups. 3 lies in your single post. Tsk tsk tsk my friend.
I think i might just create a blog to expose your lies. With the rate you are lying to your readers or misleading them i will have plenty of material to keep me busy.
"But I guess in USA you are used to blaming hot coffee on McDonalds, attempting to dry pets in a microwave on microwave manufacturers and so on. I guess people who take responsibility for their decisions and actions are a rare commodity over the ditch nowadays?:)"
Now, there's a way to make Americans want to buy from you.
Oh, and emoticons are a lot like screaming, "I have no ability to communicate what I'm feeling so I rely on silly little symbols to do it for me".
And you are a Salt Rep. You work for or own a consulting firm that sells salt systems.
Once again, Duh...
I don't really spend as much time as you think I do on this blog. I'm in the pool industry, the service and repair end of it, so it's my JOB to be well-read on all of the different equipments that are being strapped to swimming pools. An outgrowth of that is learning about the deleterious effects of some of those equipments on the pool environment. Oh, and deleterious mean harmful, so you don't have to break stride here and go look it up. And I like to write. When you're good at writing, the words just flow, and before your McDonald's coffee is cold, you're pretty much done and ready to hit the Publish button.
Next to lastly, I'd like to say that I'll bet you a keg of Fosters you'll never create that blog you're talking about. The one that's going to expose all my "lies". You may slap up some half baked bunch of links to bought and paid for voodoo research conducted by salt system manufacturers singing from the Salt Is Great hymnal, but you won't find anything to refute something as basic as the link on my home page to The Science Behind Why Salt Disintegrates Your Pool's Hardscape.
But I guess in the Never Never Land of Salt Sales, that's just more "lies", right?
You know, you should quit threatening to give me my comeuppance - you've done it twice now - and just get out there and publish all these Startling True Facts that are going to make me slink away with my tail between my legs. Talk is cheap, brother.
And one last thing before I sign off; I've said it before and I'll say it again. The idea that "it works in Australia" is no great endorsement of this product. The internet is littered with reports from your own government that salinity is destroying your farmland at such an alarming rate that you won't be able to feed yourselves in the near future, that many bird species will be in decline, that hundreds of plant species will become extinct, that even your transportation will be affected in that sealed road life expectancy will be reduced by as much as 75%. I mean, you guys are at or past the tipping point ecologically when it comes to salinity issues countrywide, and there's old Strannik, making a buck throwing gas on a raging fire.
It's no wonder you see nothing wrong with running your pools at 5,000 ppm. You probably put salt on your breakfast cereal.
Good luck with all that.
With regards to Australia - maybe you should actually read the reports you are referring to, before posting about them.
Here, I even went and found one for you: http://www.napswq.gov.au/publications/brochures/salinity.html
Words 'pool' or 'salt water chlorinator' are nowhere to be found. Another lie from you? Oh wait. I forgot. Magic bullet: I'm a 'Salt Rep', so it must be one of those notorious 'half baked bunch of links to bought and paid for voodoo research conducted by salt system manufacturers singing from the Salt Is Great hymnal'.
With regards to blog, here it is:
Stay tuned, there will be a lot of interesting info there. I've got a lot of crap to go through, which you've managed to write over the years, but hopefully i will catch up with you soon, so every time you post a lie it will be exposed in real time.
Just one question; do you consider yourself to be a Tribute Blogger or would you be more of a Cover Blogger? I can't really tell by what you've done so far... which is nothing. A big fat zero with the rim knocked off nothing, nada, just a placeholder, no data kinda blog.
But it's the thought that counts.
You know, Strannik, people can read these comments. I mean, this isn't a private conversation between you and me. The comment section isn't like the Cone of Silence. These are public comments. I don't know about anybody else, but I'm getting kind of embarrassed for you.
Sean, maybe you could talk him down off the ledge here.
Strannik, you're making a complete and utter ass of yourself. Your comments depart farther and farther from reality with each posting.
If there's anybody else at TD Consulting, if it's not just the One Man Show run out of the spare bedroom that I think it is, then you folks really ought to take this guy's keyboard away from him. Not only is he embarrassing himself in front of the entire industry, but in front of the entire "I might buy a salt system someday" public.
Oddly, this new blog looks a lot like another Pool Guy Tribute blog that somebody else started back in November 2006. He got all worked up and he was going to show me, too, by golly. Take a look for yourself.
With regards to the blog, I do realize that comments are public (did you think I lived in a cage for past couple of years?). I actually thought that that's the whole idea of comments, to publicly voice your opinion on the matter.
I'm glad that you have nothing to say on the subject but resort to personal attacks, it kinda shows the real you and proves my point.
I also didn't comment on it because you sorta missed the point of what I was saying. I guess greed & avarice clouded your mind.
What I was saying was that in your country you suffer from a growing problem of higher and higher salinity in your groundwater, in your rivers and in your reservoirs. It is affecting your crop yields, it is threatening many plants with extinction, etc. It's a big deal. It's undeniable.
Now, unless you're planning on drinking your salt pools every time you need to drain and refill one for maintenance (replastering, crack repair, etc), you're going to be dumping 5,000 ppm water into an ecosystem that's already strained to the limit on salinity tolerance. You are, each time you drain and refill a salt pool, making an environmental issue that much worse. It takes 400,000 gallons of 0 ppm water to dilute 20,000 gallons of 5,000 ppm water down to the level of taste (250 ppm as per US EPA). So, every one of your salt pools represents 400,000 gallons of water at the very limit for sodium chloride content. In fact, in parts of the US, we limit the chloride level in our rivers to 100 ppm, especially if they're used for irrigation, because at levels above 100 ppm, you'll see reduced crop yields. In fact, it's proven harmful to some species of fresh water aquatic life at levels about 230 ppm. So, to dilute 20,000 gallons of 5,000 ppm water to 100 ppm, it takes 1 million gallons of 0 ppm water. And water is never at 0 ppm, so it's actually a lot more than that.
And I know you don't care about any of that and I know that you don't see that as your problem because to be environmentally sensitive about it would affect your wallet. It would, in fact, put you out of business.
And that's the point that I'm making. Having Australians tell us that we need to get on board with salt chlorine generation is like having a cancer patient tell us we need to get on board with cigarettes.
Is that clear enough for you now?
Saying that pools are affecting crops significantly is just like saying that Australian pools affect crops in Canada.
I'll tell you more. During high tide, which happens every day, we have sharks swimming in the middle of the CBD, because the water in the river becomes salty enough for them to go there.
So again, we see another example of your blanket statements. "Ban all salt pools because it's bad".
Hey i've got another one for you: "Ban all chlorinated pools, because handling chlorine is dangerous". How does that sound? And then comes this one: "Ban all pools which don't use chlorine or bromine, since other methods don't provide adequate sanitation."
But you wouldn't campaign for that, cause having no pools to service would put you out of job?
So at the end it comes down to YOUR pocket. My suspicion that it was YOUR pocket all along, nothing to do with environmental issues.
I said that it's no great endorsement to say that salt pools work in Australia. Like you just pointed out, your rivers are so saline that you have sharks swimming in them. We don't want that here. We still have some shreds of an ecosystem and we'd like to keep them intact.
I know tomorrow there'll be another post to the blog from you, and just so you know, just so everybody knows, I've been more than accommodating, and now I'm done. You're an embarrassment to our industry and I'm not publishing any more of your drivel.
Now go play tag with those river sharks or something. Or go work on your own blog.