Ever wonder what biofilm looks like?

RDspaguy

In The Industry
Mar 21, 2020
904
Cabool, Mo
I picked up a 2002 Hot Springs Prodigy as a flip tub. It had been frozen, and has multiple leaks as a result. Hot Springs are the WORST tubs to do plumbing repairs on, due to the piece-built tongue and groove sides and extremely hard foam that channels water, making it a true joy to locate the leaks. But I digress...
I am (obviously) cutting out some damaged pvc, and I noticed that there is a biofilm buildup inside the pipes. This is nothing new to me, having been repairing spas for 25 years, but I thought some of my new friends here on TFP might not have ever seen it. I even hear that some doubt it's existence, and think that Ahh-Some puts stuff in to cause the gunk that comes out. :rolleyes:
So here it is:
20201101_174709.jpg
Here you can see where I wiped some off.
20201101_172923.jpg
That is a different pipe than the first pic, btw, so you see it is in every pipe in the tub. That's alot of square footage of surface area. And alot of nasty gunk.
A little history... I have never been a fan of purge products. I have tried a few over the years and had poor results, so I stopped using or recommending them. Once I started on TFP and another forum I frequent (about a year ago), I started hearing about Ahhsome. I read threads, watched videos, chatted with @dlleno and @Ahhsomeguy, and was convinced. But I had never used it myself...
So I reached out to Ahhsomeguy and made him a little challenge. I proposed to run his product in this tub (after I complete repairs) then cut open a pipe and look. Forget scientific test numbers, I am from Missouri, the Show-Me state. So show me. I had ahhsome delivered at my house 2 days later. He must have shipped it priority, or something. :goodjob:
I will keep you posted on the repair status and test results with pics. I am kinda excited, but the tub has ALOT of leaks, so it may be a bit...20201101_174709.jpg20201101_172923.jpg
 
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ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
20,288
Northern NJ
Looks to me like that biofilm is a cousin to mold. If you would have asked me what that is I would have said mold. Biofilms, mold, mildew, algae, I think are all similar microscopic organisms.
 

RDspaguy

In The Industry
Mar 21, 2020
904
Cabool, Mo
I think biofilm is a catch-all word that includes all kinds of organic contaminants. I'm sure @Ahhsomeguy could explain it better.
All I know is it's slimy when wet and dries to a starch-like skin. And I've been seeing it inside pipes for 25 years.
 

jimmythegreek

TFP Expert
Bronze Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 10, 2017
2,926
Morris Cnty NJ
It's funny that in older pool plumbing I see the same stuff. Slimy when wet and often smells a little. Cant really ahhsome a pool tho, and nobody really talks about it
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,356
Tucson, AZ
Biofilms are the secretions of bacteria rich in fatty acids, carbohydrates and proteins. It’s essentially a slime layer that forms the matrix (or home) that the bacteria protect themselves in. As bacteria die, the dead cells simply add to the films thickness. So, over time, biofilms grow in thickness and complexity. They can become several millimeters thick and, in some instances, can completely plug up a pipe. The slime layer is so dense and chemically inert that it can take 100’s of ppm worth of free chlorine to even begin to kill the bacteria embedded in it. 3-5ppm FC is a laughable joke to a bacterial biofilm.

Those pipes don’t look nearly as bad as a plastic kitchen sink drain. But still, a definite reservoir for nasty pathogens to live in.
 
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RDspaguy

In The Industry
Mar 21, 2020
904
Cabool, Mo
Those pipes don’t look nearly as bad as a plastic kitchen sink drain.
Yuck! Thanks for THAT visual! If I ever saw a tub that bad I'd lose my lunch! 🤮 The thought of soaking in sink drain water...

Cant really ahhsome a pool tho
Actually, they have a product for pools. Ahh-Some water clarifier and bio-cleaner. I only know because ahhsomeguy included flyers in the package he sent. I had never heard of it before, or heard from anyone who has used it.
 

Saturn94

Well-known member
Mar 11, 2015
1,022
SE Virginia
It's funny that in older pool plumbing I see the same stuff. Slimy when wet and often smells a little. Cant really ahhsome a pool tho, and nobody really talks about it
In terms of safety, are biofilms in pool plumbing an issue given the large volume of water (assuming properly chlorinated and FC consumption is normal)?
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,356
Tucson, AZ
In terms of safety, are biofilms in pool plumbing an issue given the large volume of water (assuming properly chlorinated and FC consumption is normal)?
In a properly maintained pool, biofilms will rarely form. Bacteria generally can’t get established in an outdoor pool very easily (UV, chlorine, etc). However, if biofilms do develop then it’s simply a reservoir for bacteria and contributes to chlorine demand. Baquacil pools will notoriously develop plumbing biofilms because of all the mold and slime issues they get. Purging pool plumbing is a lot more difficult in a pool than a hot tub.
 

Saturn94

Well-known member
Mar 11, 2015
1,022
SE Virginia
In a properly maintained pool, biofilms will rarely form. Bacteria generally can’t get established in an outdoor pool very easily (UV, chlorine, etc). However, if biofilms do develop then it’s simply a reservoir for bacteria and contributes to chlorine demand. Baquacil pools will notoriously develop plumbing biofilms because of all the mold and slime issues they get. Purging pool plumbing is a lot more difficult in a pool than a hot tub.
Good to know. Thanks. 😀

Btw, I took a look at the Ahh-Some product for pools. Some of the claimed benefits had me wondering what the product is doing beyond cleaning the plumbing, ie “Less red-eye and green-hair syndrome”, “Liners will last longer and remain supple (not dry out as fast)”, “Aggregate surfaces will be smoother with less calcium barnacles (tile, cement, marcite)”. 🤔
 
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CuckooChris

Active member
Sep 14, 2016
28
Coplay, PA
Yeah, I think I was the one questioning it a few months ago. It wasn't that I thought it was putting something into the water, it was that I thought it may be pulling stuff out of the water from all of the bubbles/foam. Like what a protein skimmer does in a salt water aquarium. In an aquarium, even though your water is crystal clear, there is still dead stuff in the water (broken down fish waste/food) that needs to be removed and a protein skimmer pulls it out somehow on the tiny bubbles it creates. It was just one of those random thoughts, probably after a few too many drinks, lol. But like I said, I'm still going to use it every three months. I look forward to seeing the results of your experiment!! Someday one of us will buy an endoscope and go down into our plumbing before and after a purge!
 

RDspaguy

In The Industry
Mar 21, 2020
904
Cabool, Mo
Well thanks for the interest, guys and gals. I spent a few more hours locating leaks (or trying to ;)) today, but my disabled veteran father (who we care for) had a doctor appt today so I could only work on it a bit. Plus it's deer season, so I have obligations to my freezer right now as well. But we're getting there.
Have to go to the city (Springfield Mo) to pick up my new couch tomorrow, so will only get a few hours in on it. Hoping to be able to locate what I think (hope) is the last leak, then run the Ahhsome through before I drain again for the remaining repairs. I will be getting a good look inside several pipes then. 🤪
This is why you don't ever want to freeze your spa, especially if it's a hot springs...
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I don't have any pics of the 5 giant trash bags full of foam pieces I swept up in the course of reaching this point. Only about 2 more bags to dig out, bite sized pieces at a time with this hard foam. I used my powerwasher on it twice, which is hugely messy, gets me soaked, and blows specks of foam into my eyes in spite of safety glasses. But it's still better than digging one bite at a time with a nail bar.
In a customers backyard, this tub would have cost at least $1k before I could begin to tell you how much it would cost to fix. Final repairs would be in the $3k range on this one, including the new pump and insulation. I expect to get much less than that for it.
Here it is when I got it.
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The owner either had someone start on it or did so himself. Then decided to buy a different one instead. I can appreciate the logic in that.
 
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JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,356
Tucson, AZ
That is an impressive amount of spray foam. Is that common for a lot of hot tubs to have that much foam in them? And is the wood framing common construction as well?

You should do some YouTube videos of your work, it would be informative.
 
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Mdragger88

Bronze Supporter
Jun 1, 2018
1,326
Hernando, Ms
Good luck on your project. I am Patiently waiting for your results! A purge is oddly satisfying 🤩 & I agree if a pic is worth 1000 words a video is probably worth a million.
As an owner of a rotomolded spray foamed spa these pics make me cringe at the thought of a repair 😬
 

RDspaguy

In The Industry
Mar 21, 2020
904
Cabool, Mo
The amount of foam is typical for a full foam spa, but the type (high density closed cell) is definitely not. Only watkins uses so much of it, though many manufacturers will do a 2" overspray on the shell and just insulate the cabinet.
The framing is also not typical, HS has many more ribs on the sides to provide a place to attach the piecebuilt skirting. Most spas have removeable side panels so need less framing. The side framing provides virtually no support, it is just to hold the skirting on, attach lifts and cover locks, etc.

You should do some YouTube videos of your work, it would be informative.
I am not a selfie kind of guy, so would need a camera operator and an editor to bleep out all the cussing. ;) I'll give it some thought, I always wanted to be a movie star. :unsure:
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,356
Tucson, AZ
The amount of foam is typical for a full foam spa, but the type (high density closed cell) is definitely not. Only watkins uses so much of it, though many manufacturers will do a 2" overspray on the shell and just insulate the cabinet.
The framing is also not typical, HS has many more ribs on the sides to provide a place to attach the piecebuilt skirting. Most spas have removeable side panels so need less framing. The side framing provides virtually no support, it is just to hold the skirting on, attach lifts and cover locks, etc.


I am not a selfie kind of guy, so would need a camera operator and an editor to bleep out all the cussing. ;) I'll give it some thought, I always wanted to be a movie star. :unsure:
Head-mounted GoPro camera with a lapel mic and some bright white LED stage lighting behind you. You can get one of the local teenage kids to edit the raw video using iMovie on their Mac. If you setup a giant green-screen behind the tub while you work, it can be replaced with a tropical island beach background to impress everyone ... although they'll probably wonder why you're wearing a sweater and knit cap on a tropical beach :unsure:
 

RDspaguy

In The Industry
Mar 21, 2020
904
Cabool, Mo
Head-mounted GoPro camera with a lapel mic and some bright white LED stage lighting behind you. You can get one of the local teenage kids to edit the raw video using iMovie on their Mac. If you setup a giant green-screen behind the tub while you work, it can be replaced with a tropical island beach background to impress everyone ... although they'll probably wonder why you're wearing a sweater and knit cap on a tropical beach :unsure:
Is there anything you don't know the answer to? 🤯 :ROFLMAO:
 

RDspaguy

In The Industry
Mar 21, 2020
904
Cabool, Mo
So... I found the last, elusive, leak. And now my nightmare is complete.
Have I mentioned that hot springs shells are not fiberglass? They are acrylic over some sort of plastic. Probably why they use so much high density foam, to help support the flimsy material.
Here is why that's a TERRIBLE idea.
20201118_160811.jpg
This is from underneath looking up at the bottom of one of the seats. See the crack?
:oops:🤬:brickwall:‼:brickwall::hammer:🐂:poop:🐒🧠🖕:poop:🤬:hammer::brickwall::brickwall::brickwall::brickwall::brickwall::brickwall::brickwall:‼‼
That's all I have to say about THAT!
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,356
Tucson, AZ
So cross Hot Springs Spas off your list of recommended hot tubs, eh? 😂

Definitely looks like a terrible way to design a shell. Easy for them to manufacture but terrible for the owner.