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Improved IAQ at The CISD Natatorium
A Case Study

The Conroe Independent School District (CISD) Natatorium is a world-class indoor competitive swimming and diving facility located in Shenandoah, Texas. In addition to being used by teams from the school district, this multi-million dollar facility, nicknamed the "Nat," is home to five competitive organizations that are charter lease holders.

The Nat is a truly impressive facility. It features a 16,007 square foot, 65-meter aquatic area with a 50-meter stretch, which is double the size of a NCAA facility. The dive well has four one-meter and two three-meter Olympic diving boards. It can host four water polo tournaments at the same time or one diving and two swimming events simultaneously. A training fitness center, pro shop and concession area are added amenities.

During its first year of operation, the Nat hosted 59 competitive events and saw an average of 1,100 people—ranging from young children to masters—use the pool on a daily basis.

But size is not the primary reason why the Nat quickly became the preferred training and competitive venue for swimmers, divers and water polo players soon after it opened in August 2008.

Superior Air and Water Quality Set the Nat Apart

The consistently high air and water quality are what really set the Nat apart from other venues. "We don’t have the tell-tale problems experienced elsewhere," explained Natatorium Coordinator Louis "Sam" Fruia, M.Ed., AFO, CPO. "And I attribute that in large part to our use of DuPont™ Oxone®."

DuPont™ Oxone® is an oxygen-based oxidizer that eliminates bather waste and other organic contaminants without raising chlorine levels. It will not produce irritating combined chlorine compounds, which are known as chloramines. The result is enhanced sanitizer efficiencies; clear, sparkling water; and better indoor air quality.

As the Natatorium Coordinator, Fruia, who has more than 30 years of aquatic competitive, instructional and managerial experience, is responsible for the administration of district-wide and community aquatic programs, marketing and daily operations at the Nat. It was Fruia who made the decision to run a trial using DuPont™ Oxone® when the Nat first opened.

But as Fruia explains, until he ran this trial, he was like the majority of his peers who steadfastly believe that breakpoint chlorination is the answer. He also had some recent experience with a UV system at a much smaller pool in a previous job and was well aware of some of the challenges associated with that option.

"I was always a strong proponent of breakpoint chlorination," said Fruia. "In fact, when I first heard Ed Lightcap from DuPont talk about Oxone® at RWQ meetings, I pushed back because I didn’t see the need to change. I was really resistant to trying anything different. But over time, Ed did a great job of educating me about the benefits of using Oxone® and he was so passionate in his belief that using Oxone® was a much better solution that I decided to give it a try in this new facility. I wanted to see for myself what it would do."

End of Trial Coincides with Complaints About Air Quality

To determine if DuPont™ Oxone® truly was a better solution, Fruia decided to conduct a four-month trial, starting when the Nat opened in August 2008 and ending in December 2008 when the facility would be closed for a two-week period during the Christmas holidays.

During those two weeks, Fruia noted that the ventilation fans were used more often and chlorine consumption increased. But he was not surprised, because the Nat was relying on 100% chlorine as the sanitizer and oxidizer following the trial period. What did surprise him was the near immediate reaction from those using the pool.

All of the lease holders, swimmers, coaches and parents were informed at the beginning of the trial that something new was being tried, but they were not told when the trial would end. That’s because Fruia wanted to see if anyone noticed a difference in the air or water quality when only chlorine was being used.

He didn’t have to wait long to find out. As soon as the swimmers returned to the pool in mid-January, Fruia began to hear people saying, "What happened? Why are things so different?" He also got emails from concerned coaches noting that swimmers were complaining about the air quality.

As Fruia responded to one of the coaches in an email, "Over the last two weeks, the Nat was operating like any other indoor pool in the nation. This means that the resulting chlorine and organic material brought into the water began to combine, creating a mild chloramines gas-off, which in turn, affected air quality. This is what typically happens in every indoor pool in the nation. The Nat maintained normal water quality standards, but subtle air quality changes resulted. Over time, the air quality would continue to change."

Trial Turns Skeptic Into Believer

"I became a believer," said Fruia. "And I make a conscious effort to educate others about the benefits of Oxone."Based on his observations about the increased use of ventilation fans and chlorine consumption, combined with the large number of people commenting about the decline in air quality, Fruia quickly realized the crucial role that DuPont™ Oxone® had played in earning the Nat a reputation for superior air quality.

"Everything was exactly the same when we returned from the holiday break—chlorine treatment, a strongly enforced showering policy to control what went into the pool, and close monitoring of cleaning products being used," said Fruia. "The only thing that was different was the fact that we were no longer using Oxone®."

Within just a few days of reintroducing Oxone®, swimmers and coaches began reporting that they noticed a huge improvement in air quality.

Benefits of Using DuPont™ Oxone®

According to Fruia, DuPont™ Oxone® delivers several key benefits for the Nat, including:

  • Improved air quality due to lowering of volatile chloramine to the atmosphere

  • Ability to operate consistently at target levels of 3 ppm or 4 ppm chlorine, compared to 5 ppm, which is typical for other pools in Texas and where the maximum is 8 ppm

  • Cost effectiveness versus the use of a UV system that must run 24/7 and requires a substantial investment for installation, operation and maintenance

  • Strong reputation for superior air quality, which gives the Nat a competitive advantage when bidding against other facilities

The Nat continues to garner praise from those who train and compete there. And, its reputation as a superior aquatic facility has quickly spread beyond the state of Texas. In fact, within its first year of operation, the Nat was selected by a panel of distinguished judges as "Best of Aquatics 2009" in the university/school category in an annual awards program sponsored by Aquatics International. The Nat is truly in a league of its own.