Blessing In Disguise

Little fish save the day in New Orleans.

After Hurricane Katrina, the last thing on most peoples' minds was their pools, but that doesn't mean they didn't still need maintenance. Each of the thousands of abandoned pools could breed tens of thousands of mosquitoes and lead to a West Nile virus outbreak, according to the May 1 issue of Newsweek . "This should be a very big concern," Janet McAllister, an entomologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the magazine. "If left unchecked the mosquito abundance would make life unlivable outdoors."

With the help of aerial photos, real estate records and scouts on the ground, the New Orleans Mosquito & Termite Control Board located 2,000 abandoned pools and sent officers out to treat the standing water with larvicide, but further assistance came from an unlikely source: Pat Robertson and his charity, Operation Blessing. The charity has donated 15,000 Gambusia affinis, also known as mosquito fish, to eat the mosquito larvae. Each pool gets anywhere from 30 to 50 of the guppysized fish, which are native to the region and can survive in disgusting conditions, important considering the state of many of the pools. Bill Horan, president of Operation Blessing, accidentally fell into one of the pools and told Newsweek , "It looked like a toilet that hadn't been flushed in five years."

Priceless PR

PDC donates spa for extreme home makeover.

One of the most popular shows on TV, ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition reaches millions of viewers every Sunday. In each episode, a team of designers and contractors has just seven days to completely rebuild a home for a deserving family, and building-material and appliance suppliers donate thousands of dollars worth of product each week because the PR is amazing. The show's Web site lists every supplier and contractor involved in each episode.

Earlier this year when Trading Post, a PDC Spas dealer in New Milford, Conn., heard there was going to be an ABC home makeover in nearby Somers, the dealer contacted the primary remodeling contractor, Allure, and was then chosen to participate.

"It was a combination of retailer and manufacturer working together," says Lynda Livingston, vice president of PDC Spas. PDC manufactured and packaged the spa, and Trading Post delivered and installed it — and they did it all in just a couple of days. "When they say they do it in a week, they really do," adds Livingston.

Rather than donating a spa Trading Post had in stock, PDC manufactured a unit just for the show. Says Livingston, "We had to meet their demands as far as requested color and size."

Unfortunately, not every product donated gets mentioned or shown during the episode. "There's no guarantee, and we knew that going into it," says Livingston. "But they almost always go in the backyard and at least pan it. So it was a bit of a disappointment when they did not show the backyard on TV."

However, there were other PR benefits for PDC, including Web links between its Web site and the EMHE site, plus use of the EMHE logo and a gallery of still photos, which helped PDC garner some positive press in local newspapers.

"It was all for a good cause," says Livingston. "There are so many ways you can spend marketing and advertising dollars and you never quite know who you reach or exactly who you're involved with when it's a joint effort, and there's really no question here. It's a deserving family. It's installed beautifully and safely, and you know the word of mouth is going to be something you can hardly put a price tag on when it comes to the family and the neighborhood. So we just felt it was a great opportunity for us, as well as our retailer."

A Cure For What Ales You

Relaxing tired joints by sitting in, not drinking, beer.

The February 2006 Waterfront section featured a story on giant German beer baths being used to treat skin diseases, and it seems the venerable New York Times followed our lead and reported on beer-filled hot tubs in its April 30 edition.

During the last decade, the paper says, a handful of beer spas have opened in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. The Chodovar Brewery in the Czech Republic started offering beer spa therapy in March, and at the Kummeroer Hof in Germany, customers have been bathing in beer since 1997. Austria, however, seems to be leading the pack when it comes to beer hot tubs.

The Landhotel Moorhof in Franking, Austria, offers complete beer immersion, as it were, in four couple-sized wooden tubs filled with beer in the hotel's cellar. "Beer is very good for the skin, because of the vitamins and the yeast," hotel owner Hedwig Bauer told The New York Times . "It's cleansing and drying." The Moorhof's hot tub brew, composed of a 2 percent-alcohol lager, is produced for the hotel by a local brewery, then fortified with brewer's yeast, malt and two scoops of hops, and topped off with warm water. Bubbles rising from the bottom of the barrel cause a head to form on the beer, creating a hot tubsized mug of beer. During the 20-minute soak, patrons are offered a few mugs of drinkable beer, begging the question: Is beer more relaxing to drink up or soak in. Intrepid journalistic standards demand that we at AQUA find out first-hand for you, gentle readers, so we'll get back to you after the trip.

Take The Plunge

DEMA tour introduces hundreds to scuba every year.

Even though portable pools are, of course, relatively easy to transport, few people move theirs as much as Dave Reidenbach sets up and tears down his Alberca pool. That's because Reidenbach is the director of the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association's (DEMA) Scuba Tour, which traverses the United States stopping at twoand three-day large-scale venues with a setup that includes a 20-by-40-foot, 25,000gallon pool, plenty of diving equipment and scuba wear, as well as dressing rooms complete with towels and blow dryers. The focus of the tour is to raise awareness of the dive industry and to introduce people to diving in a non-threatening environment.

"It all started at the Experimental Aircraft Association show in Oshkosh, Wis., in 1998," says Reidenbach. "I was running a dive store in Appleton and was approached to do something like this and came up with the whole idea."

In 1998 and 1999, the Bahamas Diving Association was the major sponsor. "A lot of surveys showed that private pilots are divers or are interested in diving," says Reidenbach. "And a lot of them are flying their own planes down to the Bahamas."

In 2000, DEMA bought the tour and Reidenbach has been running it full time ever since. So far, the tour has introduced about 13,000 people to diving each year.

Local dive instructors actually staff the events, while Reidenbach facilitates the whole program, including filling the pool, which is not often difficult, but can be. For instance, at a boat show in Norwalk, Conn., the fill water started out running clear, but then turned dark brown. "The fire hydrants hadn't been flushed in forever, so we started picking up tons of rust," says Reidenbach. "I couldn't see my hand a foot into the water. After adding a bunch of chemicals, switching filters a couple times and vacuuming all night, I was able to get it cleaned out. Some nights I don't get a lot of sleep the night before we open up, but I've always been open on time."

When Reidenbach brought the tour to Mexico City, the trucked-in water turned black when he added chlorine to it. He tried to clear it up to no avail. "In the end, they actually bought water from a water bottling plant, and it would have cost them only an extra $200 if they had done that from the start."

So people get wet and try scuba, but does this do anything for the local dive shops and instructors. You bet. According to Reidenbach, "Typically, we see 10 percent of people sign up for scuba lessons within a few weeks of trying it out at the tour."