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Thread: Natural pools. I think they deserve another look.

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    Natural pools. I think they deserve another look.

    I'm surprised at how quickly the natural pool concept was nuked off of this forum and although this post may be moderated and stifled as quickly I wanted to promote a little logic and perspective into the discussion.

    I'd like to point out that humans have been swimming in ponds and lakes for all of 50,000 years up until the last century or two. Let that sink in. In all human existence were put out onto a year calendar all of our chlorinated pool swimming time on earth would be summed up on the last hour of the last day of December. So if we were taking baths before then (and I'm to understand we were and did a great deal) it seems like a natural pool wouldn't be that great of a health concern.

    While I won't disagree that swimming in sterilizer is bound to keep you safe from any and all microbial life it is designed to destroy, I would like to point out that the same toxicity of any anti-microbial that doubles as an oxidizer does have it's downsides when exposed to the human body.

    I'm sure when discussing disease in bodies of water the giant in the room is the amoeba Naegleria. I'd like to point out that it's found in almost every natural body of water you dig for it in and while millions are exposed per year from 2001-2010 only 32 were confirmed infected in the US and they didn't all die. However, an average of over 3500 DEATHs occur from drowning every year. That's 35 thousand people every ten years. Over a thousand times more people die from drowning than are infected with Naegleria.

    I'd also like to know that at least 2 of those Naegleria deaths occurred after exposure received in a public chlorinated pool. While obviously the owner didn't clean and sanitize the pool properly it's fair to note that one likely cause could have been overuse of cyanuric acid which is known to inhibit the ability of chlorine to kill Naegleria.

    How many people come to this forum because performing the chemical maintenance shuffle every year is fun, exciting, and easy and they don't often make mistakes? Judging by the name I'd assume it's safe to say you have a great many people who burn thousands of dollars to have a "trouble free" pool because they're actually a great deal of trouble.

    I think given the relative facts. It's more than fair to say a properly maintained natural pool would certainly be more effective at preventing disease transmission than a lake or pond. And so would a chlorinated pool certainly. That being said the real issue would be, "Is a natural pool good enough while creating less work and a more desirable aquascape?"

    Most of Europe would agree that it is. And given that people swim in lakes all the time in the southern states I'd have to say that given the right balance a natural pool would work pretty well in those climates too.

    I'm not turned off by the discussion of chlorine. Surely it's an excellent disinfectant if used properly I wholeheartedly agree. But I do have a bit of a nag about blasting new ideas for the sake of repetition and consumerism. About an hour of googling turned the stats I referenced above. I hope for the interest of a "trouble free" pool you take another look at a not so new, but viable and interesting way to achieve that goal.

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    Re: Natural pools. I think they deserve another look.

    Welcome to TFP!!!

    Personally, I would like to know more about them out of curiosity. Since you appear to be looking for a rational discussion and not just dismissing the current methods we teach and chlorine in general; hopefully an interesting and informative dialog will take place.

    Admittedly I know very little about them, but I just can not imagine how they are less work than the methods we teach. Most of us spend minutes a day on maintaining our pools and very little money on chemicals. I would just think that getting the ecosystem setup and balanced would be difficult and keeping things in balance could also be work as usage and weather fluctuate.

    I also think that the only place this type of system may be viable would be in the private residential market where the odds of any kind of person to person transmittal of disease is much lower and the bather load is much lower than a public pool.

    Are you affiliated with this type of product in any way or just interested yourself?
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    Re: Natural pools. I think they deserve another look.

    Interesting indeed! I'm familiar with the concept of managing natural filtration, but on a much smaller scale; aquariums (both fresh and saltwater-reef). I guess the larger scale nitrogen cycle management would be a waste treatment plant? My initial thoughts would be the build up of organics in the system which will eventually yield high nitrates. Cleaning a large waste bed whether it's grass/gravel or synthetic does not seem "trouble-Free" to me. But, I'm open to some ideas. Welcome to TFP.
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    Re: Natural pools. I think they deserve another look.

    Welcome to TFP!

    Quote Originally Posted by attrezzo View Post
    I'm surprised at how quickly the natural pool concept was nuked off of this forum and although this post may be moderated and stifled as quickly I wanted to promote a little logic and perspective into the discussion.
    I don't know what you mean by "the natural pool concept was nuked off of this forum". Did you read the thread Natural Swimming Pools (NSPs)? In this post I wrote:

    They are just figuring that it's no worse, and if properly managed and monitored probably better, than natural waters. They are trading off a greater number of short-term health effects (mostly gastrointestinal illness) against the long-term low cancer risks of chlorinated disinfection by-product exposure (and short-term irritation from nitrogen trichloride, but that's mostly for high bather-load indoor pools with no CYA).
    Specifically, the German FLL standard is set at a level for a geometric mean of roughly 1-3 ill swimmers per 1000 per season (maximum, perhaps 95% confidence level, of 7-10 ill swimmers per 1000 per season) compared to chlorine disinfection that is very close to zero.

    Quote Originally Posted by attrezzo View Post
    I'd like to point out that humans have been swimming in ponds and lakes for all of 50,000 years up until the last century or two. Let that sink in. In all human existence were put out onto a year calendar all of our chlorinated pool swimming time on earth would be summed up on the last hour of the last day of December. So if we were taking baths before then (and I'm to understand we were and did a great deal) it seems like a natural pool wouldn't be that great of a health concern.
    There is a huge difference between ponds and lakes with their huge water volumes and with rivers and streams with their continual water replacement/flow compared to most proposed NSPs. For a residential low-bather load situation the risks are lower, but for commercial/public high bather-load situations the risks for person-to-person transmission of disease are higher, not just for bacteria from fecal matter but for viruses and protozoan oocysts as well. For chlorinated pools, chlorine-resistant Cryptosporidium parvum is a big problem and something that NSPs will also need to handle. Though the rates are fairly low, one infected person can spread oocysts to dozens or even hundreds of people over a week or more before symptoms become apparent and traced back to the source pool. Again, the dilution rates of large bodies of water tend to not have as many of these concentration issues.

    Also, humans used to have short life expectancies, not because the oldest didn't live as long, but because of deaths at childbirth, for children and for young adults very often from diseases (bacteria and viruses as well as protozoa). So I don't understand comparing the survival of the human species in the past with the goals of commercial/public pools to be safer from pathogens. I don't think any of the current standards organizations want to set illness or death rates to the level of what it was thousands of years ago in human history. The fact that the human race survived mostly by having more children to make up for the higher death rates is not an argument for NSPs.

    Quote Originally Posted by attrezzo View Post
    I'm sure when discussing disease in bodies of water the giant in the room is the amoeba Naegleria.
    As you point out, that disease is quite rare. However, if you look at Figure 4 in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on "Surveillance for Waterborne Disease Outbreaks and Other Health Events Associated with Recreational Water --- United States, 2007--2008", you will see that recreational exposure to untreated water has a much larger percentage of bacterial and viral illnesses including the following in order of incidence rate:

    • Norovirus
    • Cryptosporidium spp.
    • Shigella spp.
    • E.coli O157:H7
    • P. shigelloides
    • S. sonne, norovirus GI, Y. enterolytica

    With treated water, 82.9% of outbreaks are with Crypto. Even so, as described in this CDC report this represents an incidence rate of roughly 3.5 per 100,000 population. Treated water also has a larger number of reported illnesses because a much larger number of people are exposed to such waters.

    For untreated water, in 2007-2008 there were 18 outbreaks with 486 cases while treated water had 116 outbreaks with 13,480 cases. There were 329 pool chemical health events. In untreated waters there were 236 cases of Vibrio with 74 hospitalized and 9 deaths, and there were 8 cases and deaths from primary amebic meningoencephalitis (likely from the Naegleria you refer to) where all but one were from a lake (one was in an unknown venue).

    Quote Originally Posted by attrezzo View Post
    How many people come to this forum because performing the chemical maintenance shuffle every year is fun, exciting, and easy and they don't often make mistakes? Judging by the name I'd assume it's safe to say you have a great many people who burn thousands of dollars to have a "trouble free" pool because they're actually a great deal of trouble.
    I don't know where you are getting the "thousands of dollars" number. For my 16,000 gallon pool, I spend around $17 per month in chlorine and acid though I have a mostly opaque safety cover so with more sun exposure I'd be spending closer to $35 per month, not thousands of dollars. The same is true for most others on this forum. I add chlorine twice a week, again because of the low chlorine loss, but most add it every day or two in just a couple of minutes of easy maintenance for those who manually dose. An NSP is not maintenance-free either and needs to be kept in balance. Anyone who maintains an aquarium will tell you that you can't just ignore it -- maintenance is still required.

    Quote Originally Posted by attrezzo View Post
    I'm not turned off by the discussion of chlorine. Surely it's an excellent disinfectant if used properly I wholeheartedly agree. But I do have a bit of a nag about blasting new ideas for the sake of repetition and consumerism. About an hour of googling turned the stats I referenced above. I hope for the interest of a "trouble free" pool you take another look at a not so new, but viable and interesting way to achieve that goal.
    No one is bashing NSPs or blasting new ideas. We had a rational discussion about it and at least one member is pursuing it as described in the thread Swimming Pool (NSPs) build. If you have more information to share or want to find out more, please continue this discussion, but I suggest you read the thread that goes into many further details about such pools and the standards used in Europe that govern them.
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