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Properly Treated Water Does Not Smell – The Nasty Truth About Airborne Contaminants

We all know it, that horrible smell of an indoor pool, what most people call the chlorine smell. It’s so common that we expect it whenever we walk into a building that contains a pool. We’re conditioned to accept it. We know it’s not good, but since no one appears to die from that smell, we tolerate the burning eyes, shortness of breath, and horrid stench.  

So let’s step outside for a moment, catch our breath and gather our thoughts.  

When you smell that odor, you know two things for sure. First, you know you are inhaling vaporized pool water combined with airborne volatile chemicals such as trichloramine, trihalomethanes, chloroform, and other nasty toxic compounds known as disinfection by-products.  

And, second, that odor indicates that the water you’re breathing is not properly treated, as in it’s seriously messed up. Free available chlorine doesn’t have an odor, neither does water correctly treated with ozone, and certainly UV treatment adds nothing to the air; it’s just light.  

Unfortunately, that all too familiar indoor pool reek is as potentially harmful as it seems. It means the pool chemistry management is faltering, and the contaminants have overtaken the treatment methods being used. The pool has probably been repeatedly shocked, and it’s loaded with the chemical residuals of past attempts to correct the bad water quality with a parade of stopgap measures.  

In that stew of uncontrolled chemistry, we place our children. I ask, what’s wrong with that picture? There are proven negative respiratory effects associated with airborne contaminants of the sort that off-gas from improperly treated pool water. This is not conjecture; it’s science. And it’s also common sense. I’ll never forget the sight of lifeguards, swim students, and even competitive swimmers using inhalers because the air quality in the facility was so bad. And I’ll certainly never forget how sick my own kids were as a result of an antiquated treatment system at the pool where they took swimming lessons.    

I find it amazing that this problem is so pervasive there’s an entire segment of the industry dedicated to evacuating air from natatoriums and systems designed to suck air right off the surface of the water before it contaminates the surrounding space. It is my view that these are all indicators of a serious problem. We shouldn’t have to vent the air from the water’s surface just to be comfortable on the pool deck or in the stands at a swim meet. 

Fact is, properly treated water does not smell, at all.  

Properly treated water does not require removal, beyond the need to control indoor humidity; and most important of all, it doesn’t make anyone sick.  

I understand that people who own and operate indoor pool facilities must be dollar conscious. Like any other business or even non-profit organization, those who own pools are always seeking financial security by way of containing costs. That often means making compromises, such as not updating old equipment or not addressing nagging problems such as bad air quality.  

But here’s the nasty rub. Bad air isn’t always just unpleasant, it can cause outbreaks of extremely harmful diseases and sometimes that can turn fatal. From a purely financial standpoint, I can’t help but wonder, what’s the average cost of a Legionnaires’ outbreak?  

Bad water can foster a wide range of diseases, but let’s stop on that one Legionella bacteria for just a moment. It’s a disturbingly common airborne pathogen, and it is often fatal, something like one in ten people who get it die as a result. That fact alone, I would think, would scare the lights out of anyone who runs a high-use indoor pool.  

That odor is bad news. It’s not just aesthetics; it’s a potentially existential threat to the pool and sadly those who use it.  

Yes, our company offers an approach to water treatment that eradicates airborne contamination from the pool, known as SRK HydroZone 3® — it is guaranteed to make that smell and all the frightening things that go with it vanish into thin air.    

the Water Geek


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A blog about all things water, written by SRK's founder Steve Kenny.