Editor’s Note: September hints a transition from summer to fall, but weeks of swimming fun remain for many Oklahomans. For a change of pace, here are insights (in question/answer format) from Howard Fleming, a widely respected businessman who has specialized in keeping Oklahoma pools safe.
What is a pH level, and what does it mean?
Fleming: The pH of pool water is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the pool water. The scale for pH is from 0 to 14 with 7.0 being neutral. Below 7.0 is acidic and above 7.0 is alkaline.
What should the ideal pH level of a pool be?
Fleming: The optimum range for pool water is 7.2 -7.6 This range allows the other chemicals particularly the sanitizer (chlorine) to work at its most efficient level. This means the chlorine will make the water quality as healthy as possible in regards to bacteria and algae growth. There are other facets of pool water chemistry which the pH affects and vice versa.
What signs can you look for to tell if a pool’s pH level is safe before diving in?
Fleming: Total alkalinity, calcium hardness, and water temperature are all elements of a properly balanced pool. The other item that a correct pH level affects is swimmer comfort.
How can you tell if you are in a pool where the pH level isn’t safe?
Fleming: The pH of the average persons skin and eye fluid is around 7.0 on the pH scale. If the pH and other balance items are not in the correct ranges it can cause swimmer discomfort. The main discomfort is red and sore eyes and dry skin.
Why is this a sign that is important to look out for?
Fleming: Many people think that if the pool water is making your eyes red and sore its is because of the high level of chlorine in the water. This can be a contributing factor, but most of the time the pH being too high or too low is the reason for this irritation. If the pH is too high, then the fluid in the eye reacts to the alkaline level and if the pH is too low, the fluid in the eye reacts to the acidity level. The skin also can be dried out and feel scaly and rough – again because the skin pH is around 7.0 the pH being out of range can cause this.
What resources are available to help pool owners/staff determine whether or not their water is safe to swim in?
Fleming: Reputable pool companies, such as the Poolwerx Oklahoma locations, can test your pool water and help you control the pH and the rest of the pool water chemistry levels and give you a healthy, pleasant swimming experience. Remember – “Healthy Pools for Healthy People!”
Note: Howard Fleming, who kindly consented to share his insights is a partner in Poolwerx Oklahoma/Pleasant Pools Supply Corp. The company promises “Backyard Fun” and has done so for “41 years.” Patrick B. McGuigan, editor of The City Sentinel newspaper and founder of CapitolBeatOK, contributed to this report.