Fountain Maintenance

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Hinton Martell Village Fountain

Maintenance Issues

Why these Notes?

If you are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of a fountain of any size, you might find these notes useful and save you a lot of time and experiment.

The Fountain

Hinton Martell Parish Fountain dates from the 1880s when it was installed as a water reservoir.  With the arrival of mains water to the village it became a decorative feature that went through several iterations.

The bowl is a sunken disk of about 20 feet in diameter, the upper wall is brick in the middle and the whole has been rendered with concrete.

Original fountain                        Cast iron centre piece of ‘Cupid’ supporting a bowl

Post WW2                               Concrete bowl centre piece

1960                                        Portland stone centre piece

2009                                        Restoration to original form with repro cast iron centrepiece.

The fountain is a decorative feature, there are no water plants or fish involved.

See my web site for information

The Bowl

After the restoration of 2009 the inside of the bowl was painted with an oil-based masonry paint.  The brand used was Myland Trade Truguard, the colour chosen was ‘Chalk White’ to match the new rendering.  The tin bore a warning that no thinners should be used.  I am sure this was to meet EEC regulations that aim to reduce solvents.  The paint was very thick and almost unusable, so white spirit was added and the paint then became quite workable.

An alternative was swimming pool paint, but this is only available in three colours, blue, blue or blue!

Water volume is about 4,500 gallons, 20,000 litres.

The Pump

Initially a Blagdon pump was installed, I chose this since these pumps are very well made and I have had one operating in my garden pond fault free for about 20 years now.

Within 10 days of operating the pump had seized up.  On dismantling it was found that a considerable build up of lime scale on the metal stator face and the close tolerance ceramic bearings had also limed up.  Descaling in an acid solution cleared the problem that re-appeared in about 10 days.

Contacting Blagdon was near impossible and finally abandoned.  The phone number on the box was no longer in operation and searches on the web seemed to indicate a garden centre was now the technical advice centre.  However, no one ever answered the phone.

A new pump came as part of the Laguana filter set, it is model Laguna Powerflo maxjet 7500 and has worked faultlessly since installation in 2009. Its operation is different to the Blagdon and is able to pump some solid matter in the water.

Water Quality

Water for the fountain now comes from the water main supplied by the Bournemouth and Hants water company.  Most of the water in locality comes from deep boreholes in the chalk sub strata.  Not surprisingly the water is very hard.  When emptied the waste water goes into a storm drain that leads into an open stream.

The fountain is cleaned out about twice a year, now an easier task since two large sycamore trees in a neighbouring garden have been removed a year earlier. 

The major problem was with algae build up.  In the summer the water soon turned as green as pea soup and eventually a thick porridge like deposit formed at the bottom.  Before the restoration I had made a filter box that contained barley straw.  The decaying straw I am told produces an enzyme that causes the algae to clump together and fall to the bottom.  Net result was clear water but a green deposit in the bottom.

With the restored fountain it was decided to try a UV clarifier, a Laguna Pressure-Flo 12000 was purchased, this came with a pump.  The UV clarified comprises a quartz tube with a UV lamp inside, water flows over the tube and the 22 Watt UV light that kills bacteria and algae.  Next the water passed through a foam filer and over plastic spheres that breed helpful bacteria.

The unit was not successful.  I think I was hoping for too much.  Perhaps if there was a 50 Watt or 100 Watt lamp it might have worked.  Also, the filter foam filter is quire coarse, OK for general pond debris but not for micro sized algae alone.

In operation the algae growth was reduced and what was there sank to the bottom.

Limescale built up not only on the pump that was first used, but also on the cast-iron centre piece and the quartz tube in the UV clarifier.

The local water board was contacted and a fruitful discussion with the Water Quality Manager confirmed my thoughts that I ought to try treating the fountain as though it were a swimming pool.

Chemicals were purchased; there were four types:  The main one was to lower the pH, another could raise the pH if I got it wrong, chlorine was to control bacteria and to some extent algae, and an algicide.

Test sticks were also purchased and these gave readings for the concentration of the various elements.  They are easy to use, just dip the stick into the water and compare the coloured pads with the reference colours on the side of the packet.

The most important measurement was free alkalinity that indicates how hard the water is.  Next is free chlorine.

Net result was that the water stayed clear for months.  Every week the water was tested and chemicals added as necessary.  Rainwater lowers the pH; long hot days cause evaporation and this raised the pH.

Also purchased at the same time as the filter were two magnetic scale reducers.  As part of my experiments I took them out, but scale again started to form of the cast iron centrepiece.  The units were put back in and the problem went away.  My conclusion is that these permanent magnet devices do help reduce lime scale.

The chlorine seems to vanish in a day or so in sunny weather; probably not too surprising since chlorine is a gas dissolved in the water.

Obviously the algicide runs out of steam after a while since the algae returned, slowly at first then at great speed so it was time to clean the fountain out.  Since the water has to be drained out the algae tend to dry onto the wall of the bowl.  I go over with a watering can with neat household bleach, let it soak for 30 minutes then pressure wash away.

Some lime deposit was found on the cast iron centrepiece but a visit to a local supplier of industrial cleaning materials (Bunzl at Ferndown, and very helpful they are) and I purchased 5 litre of Mattrix.  This is mostly hydrochloric acid with a small amount of non foaming detergent.  Mix 1 to 3 with water and it works wonderfully well.  Apply with a paintbrush he scale just fizzes away

Washing Up Liquid Attack.

It’s the first time it happened, but just before the village fete in 2010 someone put detergent or washing up liquid into the fountain with the net result of 8 inches of foam on the top.  After 24 hours a power washer was used to blast / blow the foam away.  On the advice of a resident who once looked after a school swimming pool a bottle of fabric conditioner was added.  Quickly any residual foam was removed, but this left us with pale blue water.  In fact it looks quite attractive.

After a month I rather fancied that the blue was getting darker with a tinge of green, so went back to the net and found out about shock treatment.  It said…

Shock treatment:  The practice of adding significant amounts of an oxidizing chemical - (usually non- chlorine oxidizers, such as sodium per sulfate or potassium peroxymonosulfate) - to the water to destroy ammonia and nitrogen compounds or swimmer waste.

Most sites about swimming pools give totally different advice, so it seems that chlorine is the common thing to use for shock treatment.  I discovered that there were two types of chlorine available, stabilized and unstabilised.  Basically stabilized chlorine contains a conditioner to protect the chlorine from degrading by the action of UV rays in sunlight.

I added 500g of chlorine to the fountain and within hours the blue haze had vanished.  Do not ask me how this happened, but it did.

What I do now is add 500g of chlorine every 2 weeks during the summer; now autumn is here I am reducing the dose to 400g and if this works, will reduce it again in the winter.  The water has remained quite clear, the next thing I need is a swimming pool vacuum cleaner to suck out the debris that falls to the bottom.  In the main this is dust and road dirt brought by the wind.

The Fountain Society

Yes there is one…  I contacted them and found them helpful.  I was persuaded to buy their booklet for £10.00.  Fine if you want a load of names of companies and people who design fountains and make pumps etc. but quite honestly a waste of money for our situation. 

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