Pool water you could drink? Yep!

Put a visionary, a high-energy steam engineer and a ‘geek’ lifeguard together, give them a few years and a modest budget…and what do you end up with?

How about what could be the finest quality swimming pool water in North America, water you could literally drink, water so clear you get dizzy looking at the lines at the bottom of the 16-foot deep diving tank?

When Kinsmen Sports Centre’s Collin Opper became aquatic facility foreman nearly three years ago, he and his boss agreed that if the aquatic centre was to continue hosting world-class events, the water quality had to be world-class as well.

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Dave Connors, then the facility’s building operator, was appointed pool operator/aquatic operations and tasked with heading up the clean-water pilot project. Collin recalled Dave’s extensive technical background which included international experience as a power plant steam engineer.

“Power plants have to purify water before they create steam to drive

generators,” says Collin. “So Dave was a perfect choice for the mechanical side of achieving our goal.”

Back then, lifeguards regularly tested water, and when chlorine and other chemical levels dropped, or when the total dissolved solids (TDS) levels were too high, making the water cloudier, they manually added more water treatment chemistry.

“We knew that managing water quality that way – with all its imprecision – wasn’t going to be good enough to reach our goals, says Collin.

Dave was supercharged by Collin’s challenge to take human imprecision out of water quality maintenance by improvements to mechanical, water supply and filtration systems.

With little money – about $70,000 so far – Dave has made some very significant improvements.

Because basic pool water systems are ‘closed loops’ – water circulates into the pool, back out to be filtered, then back again to the pool – they began draining some of the ‘used’ water returning to the filter tank and replacing it with fresh, extremely clean Epcor water. This reduced the overall TDS levels before the water even reached the filters.  

By lowering TDS levels, the team reduced the amount of chemical additions  required to meet provincial water chemistry standards.

And here’s where the geek lifeguard comes into the picture. Head Lifeguard Cam Sylvester worked with Dave to create visual computerized overviews of water systems in all four of the facility’s pools, giving Dave real-time readings of everything from water levels to flow rates at various stages of the water management process.

The results are fantastic!

TDS readings in the two largest pools now average about 410 parts per million (Epcor’s TDS levels average 390). Not bad when you realize TDS levels used to run in the 2,500 ppm range before water quality was improved by this team.

“While our chlorine levels are kept higher than City tap water, at 410 ppm, I wouldn’t hesitate to drink it,” says Dave.

“I’ve travelled all over Canada and the world and I can tell you the water quality at Kinsmen is second to none,” says Derrick Schoof, Head Coach of the Keyano Swim Club that trains at the facility.  

“One of the of the best compliments we get is when patrons say our air and water don’t smell or taste like a ‘normal’ pool,” says Collin.

When Dave describes the details and the results of their efforts at the facility, he  almost literally glows with the knowledge that he and Cam have helped Collin turn that initial vision into pure – really pure – reality.

Collin Opper, Cam Sylvester and Dave Connors have been nominated for a City Manager’s Award of Excellence for their work in making the Kinsmen Sports Centre’s pool water the cleanest it can be.

Collin Opper, Cam Sylvester and Dave Connors have been nominated for a City Manager’s Award of Excellence for their work in making the Kinsmen Sports Centre’s pool water the cleanest it can be.

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4 Comments
  1. Sharon Morrison
    2 years ago

    Congratulations Dave, Cam and Collin. Great teamwork!

  2. Mike Scott
    2 years ago

    That’s awesome! Is this process specific to only this facility or is it something that can be retro-fitted to older pools or incorporated into a new build?

  3. Margie Ritchie
    1 year ago

    Awesome! Congratulations – let’s do this at other Edmonton swimming pools!

  4. Cam Sylvester
    6 months ago

    @ Mike Scott, Sorry I just discovered this article, It’s nothing really too complex and could be done without automation but automation helps. You just need great source water and in Edmonton, we are lucky to have superior tap water provided by EPCOR. Which is what we rely on to have low TDS’s. If you want more info on what you might want to do to have a similar system you can contact me or Dave.

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