Note: The following information refers to ‘pools’, but is meant to include spas, interactive water features, wading pools, and any other type of pool defined as a public pool by the Florida Building Code, section 454.1 Fifth Edition


Whether you have ever owned a pool before or not, most know that pool water must be routinely treated with disinfectants to prevent water-borne contaminants.

Algae is the common visual contaminant you can see in an improperly maintained pool, such as green, pink, and black algae. There are estimated to be between 30,000 and one million different varieties of algae. Just as important, and usually invisible to the naked eye, are other viruses and diseases that can be transmitted through the water of an improperly treated pool. Some of these include cryptosporidiosis, E. Coli, shigellosis, and pseudomonas, just to name a few. Commercial pool owners either hire a qualified pool service company or may decide to maintain their pool in-house. A pool service company usually provides two or three visits per week, or as many as seven days per week. The pool service company and technician should be qualified, trained, and licensed appropriately. See ‘hiring a commercial pool service contractor”.

Owners who prefer to service their pool with an in-house staff person must only allow a trained and licensed individual maintain the pool. See ‘tips for training in-house pool operators’.

Whether serviced by a pool service provider or in-house staff, Florida Department of Health rules require daily monitoring and documentation of certain pool chemistry and operating conditions on DOH Form 921. This form must be current and stored by the pool equipment, ready for inspection, at all times.

Routine pool maintenance includes a variety of tasks, such as sweeping and vacuuming the pool surface, cleaning waterline and gutter tiles, cleaning filters, emptying hair and lint strainers, and most importantly, maintaining water treatment standards.

Water treatment and disinfection can be accomplished through a variety of processes, systems and equipment. The following is a list of several methods of pool water sanitizing. It is not all inclusive, but shows the more popular types utilized in commercial pools in Florida:

Sodium Hypochlorite (a.k.a. liquid chlorine; bleach) – Stored in vats and fed into the pool recirculation system via small chemical pumps, known as ‘feeders’.

pH solution – A solution of liquid acid, usually muriatic acid, and water, stored in vats and fed into the pool recirculation system via small chemical pumps, known as ‘feeders’.

Saline Chlorinator (a.k.a salt system; chlorine generator) – Salt is dissolved into the pool water. The salted water passes through a device that is installed within the pool recirculation system. This device, a chlorine generator, converts the salt, through electrolysis, into sodium hypochlorite (liquid chlorine; bleach).

Calcium Hypochlorite (a.k.a. cal-hypo) – In granular or pellet form, this sanitizer requires specialized equipment for dissolution and dispensing into the pool recirculation system. Calcium Hypochlorite requires extreme care in storage and handling, and should only be handled by trained and qualified pool professionals.

Ultraviolet (U.V.) – U.V. equipment is installed within the pool recirculation system. The recirculating pool water flows through the U.V. device. And bacteria is killed as the moving water is exposed to U.V. transmitted by a U.V. lamp. Ultraviolet is very effective in killing bacteria, but U.V. has no residual sanitizer, so a U.V. system will also require the need for a supplemental sanitizer such as an elemental disinfectant such as chlorine and bromine.

Other Sanitizer Methods – Bromine, ionization, ozone, and other methods are also available for water treatment, but these methods, due to the equipment and chemical costs and their effectiveness are usually limited to smaller bodies of water such as spas and water features.

Generally speaking, the equipment above must be routinely checked and adjusted to maintain safe water quality. Devices that automatically test the pool water and turn on and off the sanitizing equipment only as needed, are called chemical controllers. These chemical controllers will typically test the water as it streams through the recirculating system and activate the sanitizer and pH feeders until the water reaches a setpoint established by the pool operator. Chemical controllers are a valuable tool to help maintain proper sanitizer and pH levels constantly, but all parameters of water balance needs to be maintained. This includes routine testing and adjustment of calcium hardness and total alkalinity, as well as how temperature and cyanuric acid (a.k.a stabilizer; conditioner) levels will affect the water balance at the time of service.


The most common type of biological accidental water contamination is from an accidental fecal discharge into the pool water. If this happens, besides removing any sold waste from the pool, there are guidelines to follow, as outlined in the Florida Department of Health’s “Fecal Accident Response” recommendations.

Other types of contamination may include such circumstances as broken glass, or other foreign materials or chemicals that may have accidentally introduced into the pool. In almost all cases, the pool must be drained, cleaned thoroughly, refilled and water treated until balanced to standard operating requirements.

Contact a professional pool service contractor for instructions in case of accidental water contamination, or contact your local Florida Department of Health (FDOH) office for recommendations, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Florida has specific language that must be displayed on the Pool Rules Sign located in the pool area. These are just the basic rules, but there may be additional rules, determined by the pool operator or pool Owner’s organization. Rules such as no running around the pool area, adult supervision of children, restriction of pool use by children in diapers, and many other rules are common in commercial pools, but mainly common-sense is what should guide bather’s activities in the pool area. While commercial pools are not required to have constant supervision, unless lifeguards are required (only for certain pools), pool owners must still manage their pool operations and create and enforce bather safety rules.

UPSA Health
P.O. Box 520156
Florida 32752-0156

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