November in Australia and everybody must prepare for bush-fire season. But with this relentless drought the danger is magnified and the consequences dramatically increased. This season has started early and threatens to be even more severe than recent years, as there is unfortunately no sign of the drought breaking and also even more unfortunately no plan from those in Canberra to do anything about it.
We at Aussie Spas 2U hope that everybody stays safe this bush fire season and no words can adequately express the condolences felt for those who have suffered loss.
Fires bring unique problems, which I will address here.
All types of debris are deposited in pools, spas and backyards during times of bushfires as result of high winds. Smoke, ash, tree branches, leaves and fire suppressant chemicals will all most likely end up in the pool and even your Spa.
Smoke and ash can be a problem for miles beyond the fire. It has spread all over the east coast of Australia, depending on the direction of the wind, and is visible on radar. The airborne ash and debris are miniscule and often cannot be seen, though heavier volumes of ash are clearly visible as they are now, but rest assured they are affecting many Spas in this area. Some of the Spas developed filter problems and bouts of algae.
Clean-up after a bushfire can take time and should be pursued with care.
Outside immediate fire zones
In the case of bushfires, there will be a lot of ash that ends up in Spas and pools. Ash from fires that burn lower than 840 degrees Fahrenheit is mostly organic carbon. At a higher temperature, the carbon is burned away and inorganic compounds are left. These include things like calcium, magnesium and sodium.
The fires in NSW and QLD not only burned forest, but also homes and structures. Because the combustion rate is much higher for buildings, the make-up of the ash is different. At a very high combustion rate, the ash can contain potassium and calcium oxides which create quicklime. Ash from homes and structures can also contain toxins such as lead, arsenic and hexavalent chromium. Most of the ash that lands in water is also hydrophobic and repels water.
The components of smoke from fire can cause severe lasting damage to equipment and structures. Inspect the integrity of the walls, plaster, the pipe fittings, decking and surrounding landscape.
In addition, the chemistry will be adversely affected. Smoke is corrosive and oxidative. It will cause severe damage wherever it has settled. If equipment and decking are covered in ash and smoke, continue to use caution. Wear personal protective equipment and a breathing apparatus as well as gloves. There are many toxins in smoke and ash residue that can cause sickness.
In cases where homes were not damaged but were in a vicinity to the fire, the following steps can be taken especially for Spa care.
Spa protection and clean up
Your cover is critical to help minimise the adverse effects of ash and smoke. A good quality, secure fitting cover with no damage maximises your chances of keeping foreign objects out. But remember that it is not a vacuum seal and cannot be expected to keep it all out, and of course as soon as you take your cover off the air has immediate contact with the water, and miniscule particles of organic matter mix with the water.
This is unavoidable and answers the question of why it happens even though you have hardly used your Spa for warm water massage previously.
We need to be particularly focussed on the filters and the sanitisers during periods of smoke in the air. Filters will get dirtier much more quickly and even effect the water flow, so they may need to be cleaned more regularly than normal. Warnings like not enough water flowing to the heater are common. It means that cleaning must take place more often, or, though I never recommend buying a second filter and rotating them (allowing time for the filter to soak in an alkaline solution), if you have a second filter this makes the cleaning process much less intensive for you and the end result probably more satisfying as well.
Secondly the sanitiser is working overtime with all the additional organic compounds introduced to the water without our help or even knowledge. Unfortunately, there is no warning that your sanitiser is running low or even run out. Checking the level of your sanitiser more often as well is most important during this process as it can very quickly be depleted through working much harder oxidising the ash.
Smoke haze can mean added trouble for the pristine quality of your Spa water. Smoke contains tiny organic carbon which mixes with the water on contact, and some can even enter the Spa with the cover on.
Protecting your investment and ensuring the water quality means spending a little more time checking the level of the sanitiser and cleaning the filter more often than normal. If your normal routine is weekly, then I advise checking at least every 3 days and if you perceive problems check and clean filters as often as they get clogged, daily if necessary.
Remember that carbon is the building block of life on earth, and Algae just loves to grow in it if we don’t take some extra precautions!
We here at Aussie Spas 2U hope you are only minimally affected and can still enjoy many hours of happy soaking!
Author Aussie Spa Guy