Water in Bethel pool to be disenfected with UV light and chlorine

by Mark Arehart on May 2, 2013

The pool site is currently just dirt and piling. It will be the region's only swimming pool when it opens.

The Bethel Pool Project site is just dirt and piling, but come September 2014, it will be the region’s only swimming pool.

The Bethel Pool is still in the beginning stages of construction. When it opens a little over a year from now, what kind of water will people be swimming in?

Right now the Yukon Kuskokwim Regional Aquatic Health and Safety Center is pretty bare, just several dozen pilings sprout up from the tundra.

And when construction is done, the pool will, of course, have to be filled with water.

Cory Willis, an expert on Alaskan swimming pools, was brought in to help with the project. He said you can’t just turn the tap and pump in any old water. “What’s required is some type of disinfectant.”

Swimmers leave sweat and outside debris in the water that could become harmful if left untreated.

He said pool water has to meet three criteria.

“It needs to have a residual effect, meaning it can be monitored over time. It’s also going to have an effect where it’s going to be a basic germicide, or kill little bacteria and organisms that make it into the water. And then also it should use an oxidizer.”

An oxidizer essentially keeps the water clear of organic material that would otherwise make it cloudy.

Willis said a traditional pool chemical fit the bill, and for anyone who’s accidentally taken a big gulp of pool water, you know what he’s talking about: chlorine.

Chlorine wasn’t the only option, a saltwater pool was a possibility, Willis said. But after talking to a nationwide pool-consulting firm, yes they do exist, the architects drew up the plans to include a modified chlorine system that uses both chemicals and ultraviolet light.

“UV light is a very strong germicide oxidizer,” Willis said.

So it kills the little germs that can make you sick while keeping the water crystal clear.

Willis said the system will use a UV lamp that shines on the water as it’s circulated through the pool.

He said UV light doesn’t have a residual effect, however, so it cannot be easily monitored and controlled like chlorine, and that’s why the system will use both.

The idea is to use less chlorine in the water, which could make it more comfortable for swimmers.

But, I suppose you won’t really know until you plug your nose and jump in.

The pool is scheduled to open September 2014.

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