Ecologically Friendly

As global warming and toxic pollution make the headlines, people are aptly more concerned about the effects human activities have on the natural world that supports us. Although the challenges are massive in scale, each of us can make an impact on that part of the world that we are closest to – our properties. By taking some simple actions in our own environments, we can add to the health of our community’s ecosystem and the world as a whole.

Some of traditional landscape practices have negative effects on the environment – native plant removal, destruction of healthy soils, inefficient water consumption, carbon emissions from gas powered equipment, landfill waste, noxious noise from mowers and blowers, dust and dirt kicked up by blowers in addition to spreading allergies and weed seeds, and overuse of toxic materials, to name a few. Fortunately, there are more sustainable practices that reduce negative effects, enhance ecological health, and contribute to the human experience of natural beauty in dealing with the upkeep of our properties.

Conserving Resources and Converting Waste

Consider the source of your water, fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, and equipment. What ecological impacts, such as habitat destruction and fossil fuel consumption, are associated with their production and transport to your home?

Water conservation has become a fact of life. Drip irrigation allows for precise application of water with less evaporation than traditional spray systems. Subsurface irrigation can lower the evaporation rate of water even further than drip. “Smart” irrigation controllers measure changes in weather and automatically adjust irrigation amounts. Household gray water can be redirected to plants and trees. California native plants are perfectly adapted to our Mediterranean climate. Accustomed to our seasonal rain and drought cycle, they do not require abundant summer water.

Reduce Pollution

Soluble fertilizers, toxic pesticides, and eroded soil wash into our local waterways, affecting the health of our aquatic environment, and thus disturbing the natural ecosystem as a whole.  Using hand powered or electric tools and equipment will reduce carbon emissions and pollution into the air.  Raking and vacuuming leaves instead of using blowers, since blowers spread allergies and weed seeds when they unnecessarily stir up dust and dirt into the air. 

Stormwater hits home!

Your everyday household activities can have a huge impact on stormwater quality and the environment. A few examples of everyday household activities which may contribute to stormwater pollution are vehicle maintenance (e.g. vehicle leaks, oil change, etc.), vehicle washing, pool backwashing/draining, lawn maintenance (e.g. use of fertilizers/pesticides, yard waste) and pet waste. However, by using some Best Management Practices (BMPs), you too can help prevent stormwater pollution.

Here are some BMPs for household activities which can help prevent stormwater pollution:

  • Dispose of used automobile fluids at your local garage, automotive store or at a household hazardous waste collection event.
  • Dispose of household hazardous waste properly (local household hazardous waste event).
  • Use drip pans to collect automobile leaks and spills.
  • Use your sanitary sewer cleanout when backwashing or draining your pool. Do not drain pool water to the street.
  • Apply fertilizer/pesticides sparingly and never apply when rain or wind are in the weather forecast.
  • Pick up pet waste from yard, bag and tie, and dispose of properly.
Properly maintained pool

Properly maintained pool

Improper pool discharge to the street

Improper pool discharge to the street

Proper pool discharge to the sanitary sewer clean out

Proper pool discharge to the sanitary sewer clean out

Challenges--Solutions in Property Services Today

Landscape Maintenance

  • Wasting our most valuable resource= WATER= Blue Gold (runoff, shallow watering, exotic planting, & over-watering)--Irrigation assessment and correction, soil test, native plantings, and irrigation schedule adjustment with deep infrequent watering
  • Toxic chemicals going into storm drains causing pollution for many ecological systems, handling and being in contact with toxic chemicals, and stormwater pollution raising our costs to sanitize water--Go organic, water effectively, plant and prune properly, and use native plantings
  • Organic waste such as grass clippings and leaves hauled off to landfills, which is a valuable waste of resources and hauling it adds to more unnecessary carbon emission--Set up a compost system where you can store your organic wastes and let it decompose...It will become the best fertilizer you can get on the market=Black Gold
  • Blowers kick up dust and dirt, which spreads allergy susceptibility, weed seeds, and dust and dirt...The negative side effects outweigh the positive outcome of quick leaf blowing--switch to a rake, broom, or electric vacuum... worst case, if you don't get all of the leaves, they will eventually decompose and provide free nutrients for your plants.
  • Loud noxious mowers and blowers--Use quiet electric or reel push mowers and say no thanks to loud and messy blowers...switch to a rake, broom, or electric vacuum
  • One gas powered lawn mower emits the same amount of carbon into the air as 11 cars combined.  Why? Gas powered landscape equipment does not have emission testing to pass like cars do--Use hand or electric powered landscape equipmen

Pool & Spa Cleaning

  • Chlorine health concerns-kills living organisms--Reduce or Eliminate your chlorine needs with silver-copper ionization like Go Chemless or EcoSmarte system
  • Swimming Pool Backwash draining harmful chemicals into your yard-Drain properly into your sanitary sewer cleanout

Car Care

  • Wasting valuable water=Blue Gold. An estimated 40-50 gallons of water is used per car wash.--Use Waterless Car Wash or Steam Cleaning Car Wash to reduce car wash water consumption to less than 1 liter of water
  • Toxic chemicals going into storm drains causing pollution for many ecological systems, handling and being in contact with toxic chemicals, and stormwater pollution raising our costs to sanitize water--Use Waterless Car Wash or Steam Cleaning Car Wash to reduce chemicals and their toxic side effects
  • Packaging for chemicals adding to the landfills--Use Waterless Car Wash or Steam Cleaning Car Wash to reduce chemicals and their packaging


  • No need for aerosol spray cans to mask nasty smells or toxic chemicals--Steam Cleaning does not use any toxic chemicals and kills most bacteria and pathogens
  • Packaging for chemicals adding to the landfills--Steam Cleaning does not use chemicals, which eliminates packaging hauled to landfill creating emitting carbon and growing our landfills
  • Toxic chemicals going into storm drains causing pollution for many ecological systems, handling and being in contact with toxic chemicals, and stormwater pollution raising our costs to sanitize water--Use Waterless Car Wash or Steam Cleaning Car Wash to reduce chemicals and their toxic side effects 

Dog Care

  • Yellow spots in the grass with dark green grass rings around it is a sign of dog urine locations--Train your dog to pee in mulch and granite beds instead of grass
  • Pet waste may contribute to stormwater runoff pollution--Pick up pet waste from yard, bag and tie, and dispose of properly soon after your dog has completed the job


In general, you should have a plan. Some of the chemicals used to sanitize water, balance water and maintain water clarity are incompatible and can result in a worse mess than you started with.

If you are treating your own pool and are not getting anywhere, Professional Pool Care, can examine the pool, analyze the water and recommend a course of treatment.

PLEASE NOTE: When heating your pool, maintaining a water temperature in excess of 85 degrees, requires that the pool be treated as a hot water body. This means keeping sanitizers at a much higher concentration, greatly increased chemical costs, more frequent cleaning, and accelerated deterioration of the equipment and water vessel. If you insist on maintaining high water temperatures in your swimming pool, you can expect many problems.

This document is NOT everything you need to know about your pool. It is only intended to be a preliminary guide to water maintenance.



Sanitizers are used to kill or control algae, germs and other unmentionable things in swimming pool or spa water. Oxidizers are used to burn up contaminants in the water. Without the proper levels of sanitizers and oxidizers, water can become foul and even unsafe. 

CHLORINE: The most common sanitizer, chlorine sanitizes, disinfects and oxidizes. Chlorine content of a pool is measured in ppm (parts per million). Swimming pools should be maintained at a concentration of 1 to 3 ppm of FREE chlorine. Chlorine is available for swimming pools in several different compounds:

Unstabilized Chlorine (Calcium Hypochlorite): Most chlorine based shock treatments. An effective way to quickly raise the chlorine content of a pool, granular calcium hypochlorite should NOT be used in vinyl, painted, or fiberglass pools.

Stabilized Chlorine (Dichlor and Trichlor): Dichlor and Trichlor are stabilized (contain cyanuric acid), and have a long shelf life. The stabilizer acts to protect the chlorine in the water from being destroyed by ultraviolet from the sun.  Dichlor is usually granular in form and is added to the pool by sprinkling it on the surface. Dichlor may be used in Vinyl lined pools.  Trichlor usually comes in slow dissolving tablets or sticks, and is therefore ideal for dispensing through floating chlorinators or erosion chlorinators. Do NOT throw Trichlor tablets or sticks directly into the pool; they can easily damage the surface. Trichlor is occasionally used in granular form to treat severe algae concentrations in white, unpainted plaster or concrete pools.

Chlorine combines with ammonia and nitrogen contaminants such as perspiration and urine to form combined chlorine (chloramines). Combined chlorine is NOT effective as a sanitizer. Foul odors and chlorine smells are a result of high levels of combined chlorine. Many chlorine tests only indicate the total amount of chlorine in the water and do not distinguish between combined and free chlorine. Combined chlorine can be "freed-up" by shocking (Raising the Total Chlorine to a level 10 times the difference between Total and Free Chlorine).

Super-chlorination is the process of increasing the chlorine content to 8 to 10 ppm. This is recommended when total chlorine content is low, or the pool is suffering from algae contamination (green and murky), or at the beginning of the season. Super-chlorination can be accomplished quickly by adding about 2 gallons of liquid chlorine per 10,000 gallons of water or 1 pound of unstabilized granular chlorine (calcium hypochlorite) per 10,000 gallons of water. Swimmers should stay out of the water until the chlorine level of the pool has dropped to 3 ppm (usually 4-6 hours on a sunny day, longer on a cloudy day or overnight)

Shocking the pool breaks up chloramines and "frees" the chlorine to do its job. It can be accomplished (in the presence of low free and high combined chlorine) by adding a non-chlorine based shock such as sodium persulfate or potassium monopersulfate. Sodium persulfate will increase pH and free up chlorine, it will NOT reactivate bromine, but is compatible with biguanide sanitizers (Baquacil and others). Potassium monopersulfate will lower pH, free up chlorine, or reactivate bromine. It will NOT work with biguanide sanitizers.  Although expensive, a pool treated with a non-chlorine shock treatment may be entered by swimmers within a very short period of time (30 minutes or so)

BROMINE: Less common than chlorine, bromine is commonly used on indoor pools or spas. Bromine will sanitize and disinfect, it will NOT oxidize contaminants. Separate oxidizers (such as potassium monopersulfate) must be added. Bromine CANNOT be protected from ultraviolet. Bromine is very acidic (low pH) and can damage plaster and metal fittings. Before bromine can be effective a bromide residual must be created in the water. Because bromine is so acidic, pH must be constantly monitored. In addition total alkalinity must be frequently checked and maintained in the range of 100 to 150 ppm.
CAUTION: mixing chlorine and bromine tablets may cause an explosion!

Dr. Andrew Weil on the Dangers of Chlorine

What precautions should parents take for children who swim a lot, particularly those on swim teams? Is there a higher incidence of chlorine-related health problems among swimmers? Does sunblock prevent the skin from absorbing chlorine?

Answer (Published 11/6/2009)

Updated: October 2009

Chlorine used to disinfect swimming pools is widely recognized as a health hazard. New research suggests that children who swim frequently in chlorinated pools may have increased risks of developing allergies or asthma. Among adults exposure to chlorine in swimming pools has been linked with other health problems including bladder and rectal cancer and, possibly, an increased risk for coronary heart disease.

The latest on this comes from a study in Belgium, which found that teens who spent more than 1,000 hours swimming in chlorinated pools had more than eight times the risk of developing asthma or allergies, compared to kids who usually swam in pools using a copper-silver disinfecting method.

A total of 847 youngsters between 13 and 18 took part in the study - 114 of them mainly swam in pools disinfected with a copper-silver ion system. The number of kids who developed asthma increased in proportion to their exposure to chlorinated pools. Those who swam for 100 to 500 hours had almost twice the risk of developing asthma; while those who spent 500 to 1,000 hours had just over twice the risk; and asthma cases nearly quadrupled among those who spent more than 1,000 hours in chlorinated pools compared to teens who swam in non-chlorinated ones.

The Belgian researchers also found that the risks of hay fever and other allergies more than doubled with significant exposure to chlorinated pools. The study was published in the online issue of Pediatrics on Sept. 14, 2009.

Another Belgian study, published in 2003, showed that an irritant released when chlorinated water reacts with urine, sweat or other organic matter from swimmers increased the risk of asthma among children who regularly swam in public pools. This irritant, trichloramine, is believed to damage the cellular barrier that protects the lungs. Blood samples showed elevated trichloramine levels even among individuals who sat at the side of pools but didn’t swim.

I've long believed that inhaling chlorine fumes that accumulate above and around pools is unhealthy. Chlorine is a strong oxidizing agent and irritant, harmful to eyes and skin, the respiratory passages and lungs.

To protect yourself in chlorinated pools, consider wearing a mask and snorkel to shield your eyes, and after swimming, leave the pool area and inhale fresh air to flush the gas out of your system. Shower quickly and thoroughly to wash the chlorine off your skin.

Sunblock won't protect against the effects of chlorine. Instead, lobby local officials and public pool managers to switch from chlorine to safer, more modern disinfection methods. I use a Sigma System silver-copper ion generator in my own pool. Chlorine-based disinfection of swimming pools is obsolete.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Toxicity of Chlorinated Pools -

The current study evaluated whether the chemicals in chlorinated pools induced genetic changes in swimmers. The results showed that a chemical called trihalomethane was found in high concentrations in the exhaled breath of the swimmers. However, after swimming, blood tests showed no genetic changes of DNA damage due to these chemicals. After swimming, the urine was found to be filled with chemicals that were seen to cause mutations in specific tests. The authors conclude that “the positive health effects gained by swimming could be increased by reducing the potential health risks of pool water.”

Swimming has both recreational and health benefits and is favored by many people. However, studies have shown that those who are exposed to the chemicals used to clean water, both drinking water and the water in swimming pools, are at a higher cancer risk. It is also believed that the leftover by-products of the chemicals in the water expose swimmers to the same risk. Among people who regularly use swimming pools, the risk of cancer of the urinary bladder is significant. Chlorination is a method of purifying drinking water as well as water in the swimming pools. The addition of chlorine to water leads to formation of many by-products, though most of them are said to be in small negligible amounts. While swimming, a chemical by-product called trihalomethane is taken in via the mouth or it is inhaled. It may also be absorbed through the skin by the swimmers. This study evaluated whether the chemicals in the swimming pools induced genetic changes and toxicities in the swimmers.


  • For the study, 49 nonsmoking adult volunteers were chosen. They were asked to provide urine, blood, and exhaled breath samples both before and after a 40-minute swimming session in an indoor swimming pool.
  • The concentrations of trihalomethanes in the exhaled air were measured both before and after swimming.
  • The blood samples were examined to check whether there was any damage to the DNA caused by the chemicals in the swimming pool.
  • The urine samples were subjected to testing, to observe whether they could lead to DNA mutations in laboratory cell samples.

Results/Key findings

  • On examination of the exhaled breath, it was noted that there was a seven-fold rise of the four types of trihalomethanes in the participants.
  • Blood samples showed that there were some cellular changes in the participants, whose exhaled air samples had a higher concentration of trihalomethanes.
  • The blood samples, however, failed to show any significant change in the DNA or genes of the participants.
  • Urine tests showed that the urine had the potential to lead to mutations in laboratory cells. Of all the trihalomethanes, the ones that had bromine in them were found to be the most toxic.

At the end of the research study, the authors agree that this was a small-scale study and genetic toxicity of the chemicals could therefore not be predicted with certainty. They suggest larger studies with more number of participants to exclude factors that could have affected the reality of the results of this study.

This study revealed that when exposed to swimming pools that are chlorinated for cleaning, people are indeed at a higher risk of genetic toxicity. It shows that chlorination of swimming pools leads to increased concentrations of certain chemicals that show up in the analyzed breath of the swimmers. Notable among the chemicals are the four types of trihalomethanes found in the exhaled breath of the swimmers. Blood tests revealed that there were cellular changes after swimming, but the toxicity was not observed in terms of DNA damage. When testing for the potential of these chemicals present in urine to cause genetic mutations, it was noted that they had the capacity to induce mutations. Of all the trihalomethanes, the ones that had bromine in them were found to be the most toxic. Further larger studies are likely to prove that positive health effects gained by swimming could be increased by reducing the potential health risks of pool water.

By FYI Health Writer on Jul 05, 2011

Chlorine in Pools May Cause Breathing Trouble

Chlorine Levels May Pose Risks to Swimmers, Especially People With Asthma

WebMD Health News

June 11, 2004 -- Chlorine levels commonly found in homes and public pools may lead to breathing problems in swimmers, regardless of their history of such problems, researchers say.

A new study shows that swimmers experienced breathing problems similar to those associated with asthma after several minutes of swimming even in water with chlorine levels below the recommended level for disinfecting private pools.

The study shows that trained swimmers who swam for six to eight minutes in a pool with high levels of chlorine were three times more likely to develop exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) (commonly known as exercise-induced asthma) than when they swam in water with low chlorine levels or exercised out of the water.

Exercise-induced asthma causes narrowing of the airways and difficulty in moving air out of the lung.

"We've long suspected that chlorine has an adverse effect on the respiratory health of swimmers," says researcher Arthur J. Williams, MD, of the Sport Science Institute of South Africa, in a news release. "Now we know the likelihood increases significantly with the concentration of chlorine used. Swimmers should be aware of the concentration of chlorine exposure they receive, and those who care for pools should closely monitor chlorine levels."

Chlorine Tied to Breathing Problems

In the study, which was presented recently at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting in Indianapolis, researchers compared the effects of exercise in different settings on breathing function.

Researchers randomly assigned 20 trained swimmers with no history of exercise-induced asthma and 21 with a history of exericse-induced asthma to the following four exercise tests of the same intensity and duration:

  • Swimming in an indoor pool with no chlorine in the water
  • Swimming in a chlorinated pool with low levels of chlorine (0.5 parts per million (PPM))
  • Swimming in a chlorinated pool with high levels of chlorine (1.0 PPM)
  • Running or cycling next to any of the pools

After exercise, researchers used a machine to test airflow during forced exhaling to analyze restriction of airflow in the airways.

The study showed that 60% of the participants, regardless of their history of EIB, suffered from airway constriction after swimming in the highly chlorinated pool compared with 20% after swimming in the low- or no-chlorine pool or on dry land.

Researchers say that the recommended chlorine level for disinfecting private pools can be as high as 2.0 PPM, which may be irritating to many swimmers, especially those with existing problems such as asthma.

"This research is the first to investigate how increases in chlorine concentrations in swimming pools can enhance respiratory problems," said Williams.  "We hope people who appreciate swimming as a quality form of exercise will continue to reap its enormous physical benefits, but also be more aware of the potential hazards. We believe these hazards can be minimized through awareness and proper pool maintenance." 

Researchers recommend that swimmers use pools where the chlorine concentration is kept below 0.5 PPM in order to reduce their risk of breathing problems.