UB Athletic Communications Press Release
Date: February 21, 2001
Contact: Paul Vecchio
Buffalo, NY - If you thought continually adding chlorine and making sure that your swimming pool at home was safe and free from bacteria was time consuming, agonizing and dangerous, imagine what it's like to keep a pool worth of national and international competition such as the one at the University at Buffalo's Alumni Arena Natatorium, in tip top shape.
Now those days of constant chlorine may be over the UB facility.
Ultraviolet light once thought of as something from science fiction stories, is doing the job of cleaning (actually sterilizing) the pool and doing it in a much safer way. In fact, the pool used at the recent 2000 Summer Olyimpics in Sydney, Austrailia used a non-chemical UV treatment system.
Wedco/Ideal Horizons, Poultney, Vermont-based company at the forefront of ultraviolet technology, Environmental Resources Management of Pittsford, New York, the consultant for the project, and Final Filtration, Inc. of Amherst, New York, worked together to donate a UV equipment system that would cost more than the $55,000 as a Gift-in-Kind to the University at Buffalo. Head men's swim coach Budd Termin and Fred Smeader from the Facilities Planning and Design division of University Facilities worked together to convince UB officials that this technology would put the UB facility on the cutting edge of water treatment technology, while making the facility the only pool in the state of New York with an ultraviolet system. The system has been installed and in use at Alumni Arena Natatorium since the Spring of 2000 and has made quite and effect on the facility.
When used incorrectly, chlorine, which is a corrosive material, can be dangerous or even deadly to human beings. In swimming pools, too much or too little chlorine can cause water quality to suffer and contribute to numerous water-borne illnesses. Residual effects from chlorine may include a yellowing and discoloration of wall surfaces in indoor natatoriums. When the Alumni Arena Natatorium was built 15 years ago, the interior walls surrounding the facility as well as the coachs' offices, which have sliding glass entrances along the pool deck, were painted bright white. Over time the chlorine has caused the walls to become a pale yellow in color. Movable bulkheads, which allow the pool to be configured in many different ways, required extensive maintenance over the years due to the corrosive nature of chlorinated water. With an ultraviolet water purification system cleaning the pool, walls won't become discolored and metal surfaces will not corrode, thereby saving money spent to paint and refurbish corroded metal surfaces.
An additional benefit of an ultraviolet system is the speed at which the process works. In normally-chlorinated pools, it usually takes several minutes for the chlorine to kill bacteria. The UV system can purify the water in three to five seconds. Chlorine can also greatly change the pH factor and odor of the water, whereas UV does not have such an effect. New York State water regulations require a certain residual level of chorine to be maintained to be in compliance with health code regulations. One finding is that chlorine combines with organic matter impurities in the pool to form chloramines; the inactive chlorine produced by this reaction requires that additional chlorine be added to the pool. Conversely, UV releases chlorine from previously formed chloramines allowing free chlorine to oxidize pool bacteria. The UV system in place at the Alumni Arena Natatorium is the first in the state, and a series of water studies are being performed to validate the UV system as effective as chlorinating the water. Once the findings are complete, a determination will be made as to whether using a UV system will replace the old method of using chlorine only. UB officials may then lobby local legislators to persuade them to assist in changing New York State laws to allow for the UV methods to be used not only at UB, but also at swimming facilities all over the state.
Although this type of system is new to the United States, it is widely used throughout Europe, including the Olympic-style swimming pool and training center at the University of Lisbon in Portugal. Other American universities and competition facilities to use this system include: The University of Maryland-Baltimore County (which installed its system over 10 years ago), and The University of Texas.
Termin sees the use of UV over chlorine as a healthier environmental alternative to traditional methods.
"It totally cleans up the environment," said Termin. "Not only for the athletes but also for the recreational users. From a skin absorption standpoint, it's a huge benefit."
Not only can the UV system clean up the pool better than chlorine but without chemicals, UB swimmers could even be able to reduce their personal best times and post higher scores at championship meets.
"Swimmers consume oxygen when they swim," stated Termin, now in his 14th season as men's head coach. "That oxygen consumption has a significant effect on the overall metabolic power, which correlates to improved swimming performance. Breathing a cleaner type of air could be benefit to the athletes." Since installing the UV system, the change in water quality has been dramatic. According to Termin, swimmers can detect the slightest difference in the water whether it is a slight change in temperature or how much or how little chlorine is present.
"Within a couple of days of installing the system," said Termin, "My swimmers were coming up to me and asking me, 'Is there something different to the water?'" He said that without the presence of chlorine some people have noticed, "the water even tastes different."
"UB swimming, for the last 12 years, has been on the cutting edge of swim technology nationally and internationally," said Termin, who earned his 100th win as head coach in January of 2000. "This is just another way, in terms of our facility, to keep UB swimming on the cutting edge."