Let the Good Times Flow

May 31, 2006

About the author: Amy Osgood is assistant editor for Water Quality Products. She can be reached at 847.391.1025, or by e-mail at [email protected].

Florida’s Wet ‘n Wild – Orlando water park attracts thrill seekers with rides such as the new “Disco H20,” a 1970s-inspired “aqua nightclub,” and “The Black Hole,” a 500-ft pitch-black, spiraling slide. Thanks to its sunny location, seasonably heated pools and elaborate diversions, the park remains a popular spot all year round. In fact, it was named one of the nation’s best-attended water parks by Amusement Business magazine.

While high attendance is obviously good for business, it can make the park difficult to maintain. A lot of swimmers result in a lot of debris, especially hair, which gets into the water and can cause problems.

Replacing Paddlewheels

A few years ago, the technical operators at Wet ‘n Wild began having trouble measuring water flow, especially in the return lines, because of the high hair content in the water. Wet ‘n Wild monitors the flow to all of the water slides in the facility. Return water is monitored to filtration systems in 4- to 8-in. diameter PVC pipelines. GF Piping Systems had originally supplied Model 515 paddlewheel flow sensors to the park.

“People lose hair when swimming, and the loose hair wraps around the spinning paddles on the originally installed 515 flow sensors, rendering them non-functional,” said Patrick Heath, northern region manager, GF Piping.

In March of 2004, the park solved the flow-monitoring problem by replacing the paddlewheel sensors with GF Piping’s Signet 2550 Insertion Magmeter, an electromagnetic flow sensor. The 2550 Insertion Magmeter has no moving parts, so it does not catch hair and debris, virtually eliminating maintenance and its associated costs. Other features include local display and state-of-the-art microprocessor technology, according to GF Piping.

“Insertion magmeters are not susceptible to clogging and abrasive wear like paddlewheels are,” said GF Piping’s David Vollaire, product manager, Instrumentation. “This greatly reduces the amount of maintenance usually performed on the system. Because they are non-mechanical (no moving parts), they are also able to read down to lower flow rates.”

Not affected by debris and hair strands, the 2550 Insertion Magmeter functions better than the paddlewheels, providing accurate, trouble-free readings to a central display panel.

“The paddlewheels that we had … were set up on a pump that has a basket on the end of it for catching large debris, but hair and lint still made it through. They would get wrapped on the paddlewheels, so you’d have to take them out and clean them from time to time,” said Dennis Crompton, pools manager at Wet ‘n Wild. “Whereas with the mag-meter, hair is not getting stuck in there and giving a wrong read.”

Trend Toward Magmeters

The following year, Wet ‘n Wild installed two of the newer 2551 Insertion Magmeters for similar applications around the park, according to GF Piping’s Heath. The 2551 Insertion Magmeter allows direct retrofit of the paddlewheel sensor, eliminating piping changes.

Although most water parks are still built with paddlewheel flow sensors, “the trend is toward insertion magmeters,” Heath explained.

Magmeters provide a solution to flow problems in water where suspended solids are present, which have hindered other flow sensor technologies. Other applications include process liquids with solids, such as weak slurries, concentrated chemicals like bleach, cooling water and raw water intake into desalination systems, Heath said.

GF Piping’s Vollaire said the 2551 magmeter has been very popular. “The success of the 2551 has exceeded our expectations. More than double the original forecast was sold in 2005 alone.”

According to Crompton, Wet ‘n Wild is happy with the magmeters’ performance, and plans to replace more paddlewheels as their budget permits.

About the Author

Amy Osgood

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