Navigating the ins and outs of splash pad servicing
Zero-depth aquatic play areas — known as splash pads — have become enormously popular in recent years for their entertainment value, risk reduction, water savings and staff savings. That said, service technicians know well the hurdles involved in servicing splash pads.
“A lot of splash pads require daily, if not more frequent visits,” says Daniel Brodersen, commercial service manager for Millennium Pool Service in Springfield, Virginia.
Frank Disher, franchise partner at Poolwerx in North Richland Hills, Texas, says splash pads pose challenges when not connected to a pool circulation system. Disher has found that all of the splashing and high evaporation rates at these play areas can make proper water chemistry difficult.
Most pads Disher has dealt with have an underground reservoir tank, and there is typically a circulation system for the tank outfitted with chemical feeders to maintain proper sanitizer levels and water balance. “These can be easily overwhelmed with bather loads,” he says.
Brodersen says that while servicing splash pads often doesn’t require much more equipment than maintaining other kinds of fountains, the filtration and control equipment may be housed in tight spaces or in underground vaults, which can be tricky to access. Further, he says, they are prone to flooding: “Even though they generally have back up sump pumps, they sometimes fail.” He says having a gas pump or a generator [on hand] is sometimes useful in these cases.
Splash pads are often located among trees, so natural debris collects swiftly in the system. Disher says some drain decks have a special skimmer basket to catch the bits, but these can get overwhelmed quickly. In such cases, debris ends up collecting in the reservoir and pump baskets.
Splash pads also tend to be unmonitored, which means other types of debris and bacteria can collect in the system. Disher has seen plenty of pets visiting the splash pads and has even witnessed some visitors bathing their furry friends there, not to mention occasional bathroom accidents from children playing in the area.
Brodersen has a couple of tricks up his sleeve for maintaining appropriate chemical levels at splash pads. He likes each park to have a Hayward Cat Controller with internet connectivity to remote monitor and set up alerts for a faster response to chemical issues. In addition, both Brodersen and Disher recommend a UV system to thoroughly sanitize the water before it sprays back out through the features.
“As far as the physical aspects of servicing and maintaining a splash pad, they are very simple and much easier to [clean] than a pool,” Disher says. “However, the chemical usage will be much higher and proper water chemistry is much more difficult [to balance].” If the splash pad is associated with a pool that enforces rules and adheres to standards, it is typically much easier to maintain water chemistry.
Millennium Pool Service visits 30 splash pads daily. Brodersen likes to test the entire system at each visit to stay on top of potential issues. He looks at sump pumps, drainage and excess water in the equipment area, plus reviews the control system, chemical automation system, timers, lights and emergency stop buttons.
Keeping ahead of potential problems is imperative because inspection guidelines are often vague or nonexistent for splash pads, Disher says. “Overall, you’re treating it much like a pool,” Brodersen says. “But splash pads, more often than not, only have the supervision of a rec center staff member or a grounds engineer, so you always want to make sure you’re leaving it perfect — and that it will stay that way until the next visit.”