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Sustainable Pool Construction and Maintenance

Pool and spa discharge water often contains concentrations of algaecides, bromine, chlorine, muriatic acid, salt, diatomaceous earth (DE) powder and/or sand at levels that are harmful to our environment. When not properly managed, pool and spa discharge waters can pollute our lakes, rivers, springs and wetlands, harm aquatic animals and plants, and reduce water quality. Learn how to prevent pool pollution of our surface waters.


Important:

  • NEVER drain pool or spa water into a septic system as this may cause system failure.
  • NEVER discharge directly into a street, storm drain, creek, pond, lake, river or any other surface water body.
  • Pool construction sites must apply best management practices (BMPs) to keep all materials and chemicals onsite.
  • Homeowners are responsible for violations that occur on their property, enforcement and fines could result from illicit discharges.
  • Dewatering activities may require a separate permit from Orange County Public Works, Orange County Development Engineering Department, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and/or the applicable Water Management District.
Homeowner Resources

What is pool pollution?

Pool and spa water may contain harmful chemicals such as algaecides, bromine, chlorine, muriatic acid, salt, diatomaceous earth (DE) powder and sand. These contaminants pollute our lakes, rivers, springs and wetlands, harm aquatic animals and plants, and reduce water quality.

Who is responsible for preventing pool pollution?

Property owners of the pool and/or spa are responsible for the actions of pool builders, contractors and sub- contractors they hire and/or their own activities on site.

I need to drain a pool. Can I drain pool water into a storm drain, ditch, pond or the lake behind the home?

No. Pool water typically contains hazardous chemicals, and when discharged into a storm drain, ditch, canal, inlet or any other portion of a stormwater management system, wetland or waters of the County, it is considered an illicit discharge into the County Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) and is a violation under Chapter 15, Article IV, Section 15-115.

What is the County MS4 and how does it relate to pool construction and maintenance?

A Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) is a conveyance or system of conveyances like roads with stormwater systems, municipal streets, catch basins, curbs, gutters, ditches, constructed channels, or storm drains, owned and operated by Orange County for the purpose of collecting and conveying stormwater that discharges into waters of the state.

The construction and maintenance of swimming pools can cause adverse impacts to water quality due to the potential for illicit discharges from the pool into the County MS4 system, wetlands, and waters of the County, during these activities.

What constitutes an illicit discharge or an illicit connection to the MS4?

Chapter 15, Article IV, Section 15-113 of the Orange County code defines an illicit discharge and an illicit connection.

Illicit discharge means any discharge to the County MS4:

  1. that does not constitute stormwater or that is not stormwater, and
  2. that causes or tends to cause water pollution.

Illicit connection means any point source connection from an industrial, residential or commercial activity to the County MS4 for which the County has not given express consent and which facilitates discharge to the County MS4.

Where can I drain my pool?

Keep pool and spa discharge water on your property by pumping it at a slow rate onto your yard. A recommended discharge rate of 25 gal/min or less will allow your lawn to absorb discharge water. Contact your Utility service provider for approval if you want to drain your pool into a sanitary sewer system via your home’s connection such as an indoor tub or sink.

How do I prepare pool water for discharge?

Follow the steps below before draining your pool:

  1. STOP adding chlorine or salt several days before you plan to discharge pool water onto a grassy area. In general, 10 days is adequate to dissipate chlorine prior to discharge onto a lawn.
  2. Use a test kit to check that Total Chlorine levels are 0.01 mg/L (ppm) or less. If Total Chlorine is not zero, wait at least 48 hours and test again. If chlorine levels are high you can consider using dechlorinating additive such as Sodium Thiosulfate to neutralize chlorine.
  3. Test pool water to be sure pH is between 6.5 and 8.0 s.u.

What is an acceptable chlorine content level for discharge?

Total Chlorine should be 0.01 ppm (mg/L).

What is an acceptable pH range for pool discharge?

6.5 to 8.0 s.u.

How do I test my pool water?

Check with your local pool supply store or online for chlorine test strips, pH test strips and/or pool chemical testing kits.

What if I have a salt water pool?

Saltwater pools convert salt to chlorine making chlorine on site. High concentrations of salt can kill landscaping, aquatic plants and animals. Follow the steps below before draining your saltwater pool:

  • STOP adding chlorine or salt several days before you plan to discharge pool water onto a grassy area. In general, 10 days is adequate to dissipate chlorine prior to discharge onto a lawn.
  • Use a test kit to check that Total Chlorine levels are 0.01 mg/L (ppm) or less. If Total Chlorine is not zero, wait at least 48 hours and test again. If chlorine levels are high you can consider using dechlorinating additive such as Sodium Thiosulfate to neutralize chlorine.
  • Test pool water to be sure pH is between 6.5 and 8.0 s.u.
  • What activities and materials used during pool maintenance and construction are harmful and can cause adverse impacts to the environment?

    • Muriatic acid used for etching the concrete pool interior will reduce the pH rapidly. A low pH will immediately kill plants and animals.
    • Chlorine is commonly used for disinfection in pools. Although chlorine by itself usually does not cause environmental harm, it combines rapidly to form chemicals such as dioxins that pollute water, kill fish and other aquatic animals in addition to impacting the food chain. Fish become unsafe to eat for birds and humans.
    • Neglected or unmaintained pools may be contaminated with algae, debris, metals or other materials that may be harmful to the environment.

    What should I do if my pool starts overflowing?

    1. Prevent overflow from entering any nearby water bodies or storm drains.
    2. Test the water.
    3. Use a test kit or test strips to check that Total Chlorine levels are 0.01 mg/L (ppm) or less. If Total Chlorine levels are high you can consider using dechlorinating additive such as Sodium Thiosulfate to neutralize chlorine.
    4. Test pool water to be sure the pH is between 6.5 and 8.0 s.u. If you need to neutralize pH you may consider using soda ash or a similar product to achieve a pH between 6.5 and 8.0 s.u.

    How do I prepare my pool for a big storm or hurricane?

    Major storm events and hurricanes can significantly increase the volume of water in your pool which may result in your pool overflowing. When possible, plan ahead and prepare your pool for potential discharge.

    What are best management practices (BMPs)?

    Best management practices (BMPs) are methods that have been determined to be effective and practical means of preventing or reducing non-point source pollution to help achieve water quality goals. BMPs include both measures to prevent pollution and measures to mitigate pollution.

    Before draining your pool, test the water quality.

    When draining your pool, pump water at a low rate across your lawn. A recommended discharge rate of 25 gal/min or less will allow your lawn to absorb discharge water.

    After draining your pool, be sure to dispose of all filter media such as diatomaceous earth (DE) in the trash.

    What NOT to do:

    NEVER drain pool or spa water into a septic system as this may cause system failure. NEVER discharge directly into a street, storm drain, creek, pond, lakes river or any other surface water body.


    Pool Contractor Resources

    What is the Orange County definition of a swimming pool?

    Chapter 38, Article I, Section 38-1 of the Orange County Municipal Code defines a swimming pool as follows:

    Swimming pool shall mean any constructed pool over twenty-four (24) inches in depth or with a surface area exceeding two hundred fifty (250) square feet used for swimming or bathing.

    Note that a spa or jacuzzi can also fall under this definition.

    What is pool pollution?

    Pool water may contain harmful chemicals such as algaecides, bromine, chlorine, muriatic acid, salt, diatomaceous earth (DE) powder and sand. When not properly managed, these contaminants have the potential to pollute our lakes, rivers, springs and wetlands, harm aquatic animals and plants, and reduce water quality.

    What is the County MS4 and how does it relate to pool construction and maintenance?

    A Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) is a conveyance or system of conveyances like roads with stormwater systems, municipal streets, catch basins, curbs, gutters, ditches, constructed channels, or storm drains, owned and operated by Orange County for the purpose of collecting and conveying stormwater that discharges into waters of the state.

    The construction and maintenance of swimming pools can cause adverse impacts to water quality due to the potential for illicit discharges from the pool into the County MS4 system, wetlands, and waters of the County, during these activities.

    What constitutes an illicit discharge or an illicit connection to the MS4?

    Chapter 15, Article IV, Section 15-113 of the Orange County code defines an illicit discharge and an illicit connection.

    Illicit discharge means any discharge to the County MS4:

    1. that does not constitute stormwater or that is not stormwater, and
    2. that causes or tends to cause water pollution.

    Illicit connection means any point source connection from an industrial, residential or commercial activity to the County MS4 for which the County has not given express consent and which facilitates discharge to the County MS4.

    I need to drain a pool. Can I drain pool water into a storm drain or the lake behind the home?

    No. Pool water that contains hazardous chemicals, and when discharged into a storm drain, ditch, canal, inlet or any other portion of a stormwater management system, wetland or waters of the county, is considered an illicit discharge into the County MS4 and is a violation under Chapter 15, Article IV, Section 15-115.

    I am performing maintenance to a saltwater pool. Can I discharge a saltwater pool into the County storm sewer system, a lake or wetlands?

    No. A saltwater pool still contains chlorine and sometimes other hazardous chemicals. Saltwater pools convert salt to chlorine making chlorine on site. High concentrations of salt can kill landscaping, aquatic plants and animals. Discharge from a saltwater pool directly into the County MS4, wetlands or waters of the County would also constitute an illicit discharge.

    Since the code provides for an exception, can I have a hose directly discharging into a curb inlet as long as the pool water is dechlorinated/desalinated?

    Yes. In accordance with Chapter 15, Article IV, Section 15-117 of the Orange County code. Dechlorinated/desalinated swimming pool water shall be allowed to flow into the County MS4, provided that the water has not otherwise been identified as a source of water pollution.

    What other permits may be required when constructing a pool or conducting pool maintenance activities that will result in dewatering (e.g., resurfacing, etc.)?

    You will need the following permits:

    1. Building permit: Construction of a new pool or modification of an existing pool will require a building permit from the Division of Building Safety. Please contact the Division of Building Safety at 407-836-5550 for further information concerning building permits.
    2. Right of Way (ROW) Utilization Permit:
      1. Any discharges directed to the County MS4 requires an Orange County ROW Utilization permit for dewatering prior to the start of any discharges. This includes discharges from pool excavations or maintenance.
      2. If the contractor will need access to the property through a County easement, a ROW Utilization permit will be required.
      3. Please contact the Development Engineering Department at 407-836-7974 for more information concerning ROW utilization permits.
    3. State permits: The discharge of groundwater from dewatering operations may also require approval from the State. Check with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and/or the applicable Water Management District for more information concerning their requirements.

      St Johns River Water Management District; www.sjrwmd.com; 1-800-451-7106
      South Florida Water Management District; www.sfwmd.gov; 1-800-432-2045
      Florida Department of Environmental Protection; https://floridadep.gov; 407-897-4100

    How do I prevent an illicit discharge to the County’s MS4 when constructing a pool for a homeowner or a commercial business?

    Pool construction companies are responsible for applying best management practices (BMPs) throughout construction and until the construction area is permanently stabilized. BMPs must be in place prior to the initiation of any earth moving activities or dewatering, and must remain in place throughout construction and until the work area has been permanently stabilized.

    BMPs generally include:

    1. A schedule of activities to ensure that all materials and chemicals will be contained onsite throughout construction;
    2. Prohibitions of practices that may result in an illicit discharge to the County MS4, wetlands and waters of the County;
    3. Maintenance procedures and other management practices designed to prevent or reduce pollutants from entering the County MS4, from being discharged from the County MS4, or from directly entering waters of the County; and
    4. Dewatering activities associated with the excavation of a new pool or maintenance of an existing pool should be managed within the subject property.

    Note that BMPs include, but are not limited to, treatment methods and practices designed to control the discharge of pollutants.

    Some BMPs that are important for pool construction include:

    1. The installation of appropriate erosion and sediment control measures, including silt fence, turbidity curtains and inlet protections. The erosion and sediment control measures should be site specific and designed to protect the County MS4, waters of the County, wetlands and other conservation areas from illicit discharges.
    2. Prior to discharging water from swimming pools, the water must be free of hazardous chemicals such as chlorine, salt and muriatic acid. Test for hazardous chemicals and check the chlorine levels prior to discharge. Verify that the chlorine level is 0.01 mg/L or less with a pH between 6.5 and 8.0 s.u. Continue proper treatment of the water with a chlorine-neutralizing agent until it falls within these levels prior to discharge. As an alternative, the water may be pumped out by a sanitary disposal service and disposed of at an appropriate facility.
    3. Pool and construction chemicals must be properly stored in a clean, dry and covered area to prevent contact with stormwater. Hazardous material must be disposed of as hazardous waste at appropriate treatment facility
    4. When backwashing the filter system, allow discharged water to infiltrate through a grassy area or naturally vegetated swale.
    5. Never create a direct connection between the pool water and a storm drainage system, the streets, gutters, inlets, ditches, stormwater ponds, wetlands or waters of the County. These types of connections are considered illicit connections and are prohibited under County ordinances.
    6. Never drain pool water to a septic tank or drain field as this may result in system failure.

    What if I am hired to repair or resurface a pool, how should I dispose of the existing pool water?

    Dispose of existing pool water as follows:

    Neglected or Unmaintained Pools

    For a freshwater or saltwater pool, a sanitary disposal service must pump out any water contaminated with algae, debris, metals or other materials and dispose of it at an appropriate disposal site. Never discharge this type of water into the street, ditches, stormwater ponds, wetlands or other waters of the county.

    Maintained Pools

    1. Test the water to ensure it is free from hazardous chemicals, such as muriatic acid.
    2. Test the chlorine in the water. Verify it is 0.01 mg/L or less with a pH between 6.5 and 8.0 prior to discharge. If the chlorine level is not within this range, treat the water with an appropriate chlorine-neutralizing agent or allow sufficient time for the chlorine to dissipate naturally (generally 10 days).
    3. A dechlorinated swimming pool water may be discharged across a vegetated lawn provided that the discharge does not cause turbidity associated with backwashing and cleaning, or otherwise cause a violation of water quality standards, described under Section 62-624.200(2)(q) of the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.)
    4. A pump truck may be needed to draw down large volumes of water from a saltwater pool. The water can then be diluted with fresh water and discharged across a vegetated lawn. However, high concentrations of salts can kill vegetation and harm wildlife, so the water must be sufficiently diluted prior to discharge. Water that is not sufficiently diluted may result in illicit discharge to the County MS4 or waters of the County, including wetlands.

    What do I do in the event of an accidental chemical spill or other illicit discharge?

    Any chemical spills should be cleaned immediately per the manufacturer recommendations.

    If a chemical spill or any other illicit discharge (e.g., discharge of contaminated pool water, chlorinated pool water, etc.) went into the street, a ditch, a stormwater pond, wetlands or other waters of the County, you must report the spill to the Orange County Environmental Protection Division within 24 hours of its discovery. You should include the nature and scope of the discharge, and you must immediately cease discharging and implement suitable BMPs upon discovery of the illicit discharge.  Failure to report promptly upon discovery is a violation of County ordinance. See Chapter 15, Article IV, Section 15-116 of the Orange County code for more information. Report any chemical spills or illicit discharges into the County MS4, wetlands or waters of the County within 24 hours by calling the EPD Help Desk at 407-836-3111.


    Contact Us

    Orange County Environmental Protection Division
    3165 McCrory Place, Suite 200
    Orlando, FL 32803

    Email: EPD@ocfl.net
    Phone: (407) 836-1400
    Fax: (407) 836-1499

    All e-mail sent to this address becomes part of Orange County public record. Comments received by our e-mail subsystem can be read by anyone who requests that privilege. In compliance with "Government in the Sunshine" laws, Orange County Government must make available, at request, any and all information not deemed a threat to the security of law enforcement agencies and personnel.