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Popularity of alt water swimming pools growing in Central Ohio

A trend made popular in Australia and in this country's coastal areas has made its way to Central Ohio. In-ground salt-water swimming pools are cropping up across central Ohio. One local company says it is now installing salt water pools exclusively.

Upon exiting the back door of Mark Sroufe's Victorian Village home, just north of downtown, a visitor is surprised to see an eighteen-thousand gallon kidney-shaped sswimming pool. The blue cement lagoon dominates the fieldstone covered yard surrounded by flowering gardens. When Mark Sroufe turns on the deck jets the sounds of the city melt away.

When Sroufe decided to install an in-ground pool two years ago all he knew was that pools require a lot of maintenance, a lot of work. Whe he learned salt water poools were less labor intensive and required no harsh chemicals, Sroufe says he was sold. He says the filter measures the amount of chlorine in the pool. If it's low more salt is added.

Ed Merklin of Mallory Pools in Powell says less work is just one of several advantages salt water has over traditional pools. He says the water is softer and better for skin and won't sting swimmer's eyes. He says there are fewer hassles than traditional fresh water pools.

Merklin says his company installs up to fifty in-ground pools in Central Ohio each year. Virtually all of them are now the salt water variety.

Merklin says saltwater pools have long been popular in Australia, where fresh water pools are now now outlawed, and along America's coast. Saltwater pools have only recently become popular in Ohio. The pools use salt to keep the water clean but Merklin says the amount is minute compared to that contained in the ocean. Merklin says ocean water contains

So far, homeowner Mark Stroufe says he's only had to add salt to his filter once this summer. He says the filter contains a processor that turns the salt into chlorine.

Ed Merklin says a salt water pool costs up to two thousand dollars more than a traditional fresh water pool to install. But because owners avoid the cost of pricey chemicals, they can recoup the initial outlay in about two years. He says converting exisiting fresh water pools to salt costs about the same amount.

Despite the apparent advantages, Columbus recreation and parks department spokeswoman terry leis says the city has no plans to convert public neighborhood pools from fresh to salt water.

And salt water pools are not without their critics. Detractors say the salt can corrode metal pool ladders and surrounding patio furniture.. They also say calcium, a salt by-product can build up on the surface of the water. Critics complain filters must run longer and can burn out faster than conventional models.

But Mark Sroufe has experienced none of those problems. He says he's glad he made the choice. He says the pool is virtually maintenance free.

Mark Sroufe 's salt water pool is one of two featured this Sunday on the Annual Victorian Village Tour of Homes.