A pioneering swimming pool disinfection system used in south Birmingham and developed as part of the US space programme has been given a resounding thumbs-up.
The MineralPURE Pool System uses a copper/silver ionisation process to cleanse the water, reducing the amount of chlorine required by up to 80 per cent.
It has been brought to the UK by Peter Carter of Edgbaston, who heads Clearwater Enviro, and introduced the system at Northfield Leisure Centre where chlorine has been reduced dramatically.
A case study into its application at Northfield has revealed swimmers and staff found the environment far more pleasant than with conventional disinfection by high levels of chlorine.
A survey of pool users showed prior to its introduction 89 per cent were affected by the odour of chlorine, a figure which fell to 13 per cent with the copper/silver system.
Mr Carter said not only does the system do away with the fumes caused by chlorine but it is also cheaper, kinder to the environment and prolongs the life of swimming pools.
The system is not new, it is widely used in countries like the USA, China and Mexico – and the science behind the product was developed as part of the US space programme.
“It has been around for years,” said Mr Carter. “It came out of NASA and was originally developed for the Apollo moon shot mission.
"The entire programme realised the need for clean drinking water for the astronauts and they were concerned about potential dangers involved in taking chlorine into space.
"As a solution they developed the ionisation technology as a safe alternative.”
Two-and-a-half years ago Mr Carter was alerted to the product by his son, who discovered it on the internet.
He now has distribution rights for the UK and Ireland. He approached the city council about trialling the system and it agreed to do so at Northfield.
He said: “It can reduce chlorine by 65 to 80 per cent in a commercial pool – they have to have a minimum amount of chlorine – but for a pool at home you could use it without chlorine at all.
“We have done before and after water tests and have found it improved quality of water dramatically, while maintaining an equal level of disinfection as does the use of heavy chlorine dosing on its own.”
The science behind the system is relatively simple, as Mr Carter explained: “Copper and silver ions stop bacteria and algae from growing and removes them during the filtration process.
“It’s not a new idea, the Greeks and the Egyptians used to use copper vessels to keep water clean. At Northfield there are three electrodes which the water passes through. The copper and silver ions are produced through electrolysis, which requires only a low-level voltage.
"The ions then inhibit and remove the wide range of bacteria commonly found in public swimming pools and, unlike many other systems such as ozone and UV, ionisation generates a residual, as does chlorine.”
He added: “With cheaper capital cost, lower service requirements, running costs and low level technical requirements, ionisation will prove to be the future for swimming pool operators.
“There’s less wear and tear for your buildings too. Chlorine is a massive problem for buildings. Lighting systems have to be regularly replaced and eventually it eats a building away.”
The system is already extensively used in other processes involving water purification such as aquatic habitats, water parks, water towers, hospitals and water treatment plants – anywhere where there is a water system that requires disinfecting.
Mr Carter is now hoping leisure chiefs at Birmingham City Council will roll it out to other pools, a move which he feels could prompt other local authorities, private health clubs, schools, universities and hotels to follow suit.
Richard Davies, service integration head in the Northfield constituency, said the trial had been a success.
He said: “Birmingham is a big city with a lot of pools and if it is compatible with other sites there is potentially quite a big impact in terms of benefits from using the system.”