Where were you when the first human foot made an imprint on the moon 40 years ago?
I was in Ferkessedougou, Ivory Coast working at a mission station for the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college. I spent part of my time doing maintenance and the other helping with surgery. I remember listening to the short wave radio as we heard Voice of America describe the landing. It was night and there was a bright African full moon. After they landed I went outside and looked at the moon marveling at the advances in technology that allowed that human footprint on the lunar surface.
The next morning I excitedly told my co-worker, in my broken French, what happened the night before. He asked me “How long did it take them to get there?” “Three days was my answer.” He thought a while and then said, “The moon is as far away as Buoake.” Buoake is a three-day walk from the mission station.
His frame of reference was completely different than mine and in a way both were accurate.
A Different Understanding
That experience is very similar to what is happening in the understanding of how bacteria live in pools and spas. The old, accepted model says that bacteria like to swim and remain suspended in the water. We now know that 99% of bacteria in water swim to the nearest surface, attach themselves, and set up a microscopic colony that is protected by a layer of sticky protein and sugar molecules we call organic contamination.
The organic contamination protects the bacteria from chlorine or other chemicals put into the pool to control bacteria. In fact it absorbs chlorine, bromine or ozone so a lot has to be added to the pool to maintain proper levels. As we study organic contamination in our laboratory and more fully understand how it affects pools, spas and any other system where water, bacteria and a surface are present, we are convinced that most of the water problems plaguing the recreational water experience are due to organic contamination.
The bad news is that bacteria protect themselves with organic contamination and that all the chlorine, bromine, ozone, cooper, silver, UV light or other systems that only affect bacteria suspended in water are totally ineffective against bacteria protected with organic contamination. The good news is that we are discovering that the sphagnum moss in SpaNaturally® and PoolNaturally® may be nature’s answer to controlling organic contamination.
While this research may not compare with the accomplishment of Apollo 11, in the future we’ll know that cleaner, safer water with fewer chemicals was a dream fulfilled through the scientific effort of hundreds of scientists who transformed our understanding of how bacteria live and protect themselves.