Pool irritants to be alleviated by new UV cleaning system

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After months of complaints about uncomfortable swimming conditions by Ware Pool users, Swarthmore athletic administrators have finally settled on a date to install an ultraviolet (UV) sterilizing system — one that promises to reduce the level of chloramines, the chlorine by-product that causes eye and nasal irritation and difficulty in breathing for swimmers.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chloramines are a build-up of irritants, formed as by-products associated with disinfection through chlorine use. These by products result when chlorine, sweat, urine, and other waste combine. As the concentration of these compounds increases, the air becomes infected as well.

Breathing air “loaded with irritants can cause a variety of symptoms … [ranging] from mild symptoms, such as coughing, to severe symptoms, such as wheezing or aggravating asthma … and may increase sensitivity to other types of irritants such as fungi and bacteria” according to the CDC’s website.

These irritants in the air build up as a result of an insufficient amount of fresh air movement over the pool surface. This is then compounded by air recycling devices used to control heating costs.

Sue Davis, Head Swimming Coach, says that a UV system will be installed over winter break. These systems have been proven effective at removing chloramines from pools.

According to Marian Ware Director of Athletics Adam Hertz, the problem was actually caused by a power-outage in the pool last year, after which the existing system added the chlorine, that hadn’t been released earlier, during the outage in large volumes and resulted in higher than optimal chlorine levels.

This happened again several times after. Because installing a new controller will allow for lower usages of chlorine and therefore lower levels of chloramines, the UV sterilizing system will most likely solve the problem swimmers have been facing for months.

These sporadic power outages and consequent rise in chloramines in the water have indeed made this long season a tough one for swimmers.

“I have always had exercise-induced asthma, so it’s always been hard for me to breathe when I swim, but I noticed it more when I came here,” swimmer Katie Warren ’15 said. “I tie up in all my races because I can’t get enough air into my system since there are so many chemicals circulating.” Warren also noted that there is a lot of coughing during practice, and that swimmers often need to step outside to get fresh air.

Tony Lee ‘15, also a swimmer, has noted that his hair has thinned since he began using the Ware pool at the beginning of the year. “I never had this problem in high school,” Lee said.

Chlorine levels also rise and fall depending on the amount of activity in the pool, according to Hertz, so it is not unusual to get higher readings when there are open swim meets or practices.

In fact, for that reason, the levels are often higher than they are supposed to be — especially during swimming season. While the system is detecting the level of need to protect the water, it does not necessarily protect the swimmers themselves, whose well-being and performance are consequently at stake.

The pool will be put to the test this weekend at the Swarthmore Invitational, an annual swim meet in which approximately 10 teams will compete. The event will take place on both December 2 and 3.

“We continue to monitor the pool, checking the levels twice daily,” Hertz said. This will have to do until the new system comes in, which will not only monitor but also control the chlorine levels.

After a year of researching various systems and their benefits, Hertz said that the UV system seems as though it will be the most effective in fixing the problem the Ware Pool and its swimmers face.

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