Pool Operator Talk News

California pool algae in the southeast

Are the sudden mustard algae blooms in swimming pools across the United States directly due to the wildfires on the west coast? It’s a strong possibility. California pool algae in the southeast may be the final bon voyage kick to the nuts we get from the 2021 season.

The time to hesitate is through

Robert Alan Krieger

Certain species of freshwater Diatoms (mustard algae) quickly produce ‘resting’ spores when faced with inhospitable conditions. The thickness of the cell’s walls and nutrients within allow these little suckers to deep sleep for a long ass time (100+ years) and in some adverse environments—evolution’s method of survival of the species.

diatoms, photo cred CDC/ Janice Haney Carr

We know algae spores can become airborne, and this is primarily how they travel to your pool from a pond (lake, river, stream, swamp, etc.). But how are they getting into the air?

Similar article Algae Specialist Certification

California pool algae in the southeast

Waves crashing to the shore are the means of jettison on larger freshwater bodies such as the Great Lakes, Electrostatic attraction to water droplets contained within fog or mist has been known to tote some spores along. Then there is dispersal due to the splashing of rain or precipitation that launches the light sources of tsoris into the air for the wind to carry them away.

A century old spore

What about long-distance atmospheric transport by wildfire smoke? It could even be ‘resting’ diatom spores from an area currently threatened by fire where a pond had once been.

Online Pool Classes

California pool algae in the southeast

A fungus among us

Scientific publications do exist evidencing fungus doing just that, traveling coast-to-coast in a cloud of smoke. Using state-of-the-art numerical simulations of atmospheric transport and meteorological data, researchers can follow the trajectory of fungal spores across North America. Although patterns emerge, unpredictable trajectories do occur due to differences in the strength of turbulence of day versus night. 

photo: flicker user Kevin Dooley, license

On the Rio Grande

Tauber pollen traps have been used in New Mexico in the southern Rocky Mountains to measure the travel of algal spores. Here the freshwater green algae Pediastrum boryanum boryanum was collected and monitored over eight years. The thing that makes this noteworthy is the closest body of water with a living population of Pediastrum in Cochiti Lake, over 26 miles away. Strong southwesterly winds are believed to entrain and transport Pediastrum from the surface water of the lake.

California pool algae in the southeast

I can feel it coming in the air tonight

Phil Collins

Scientists have also found upon analysis with electron microscopy of aerosols collected at a site on the northeast coast of South America that freshwater diatoms from paleolakes in Africa were contained within. The travel by fire method of colonizing pool after pool in California makes perfect sense, but could diatoms in flight on wildfire smoke to Atlanta explain the sudden blooms in Decatur and other east coast destinations? There is enough published scientific research to warrant air quality analysis. IMO

How to Get Rid of Swimming Pool Algae, Rudy Stankowitz, 2021

Stephen A. Hall (1998) Atmospheric transport of freshwater algae Pediastrum in the American Southwest, 37:6, 374-375, DOI: 10.1080/00173139809362693

Atmospheric Transport of North African Dust-Bearing Supermicron Freshwater Diatoms to South America: Implications for Iron Transport to the Equatorial North Atlantic Ocean,Anne E. Barkley,Nicole E. Olson,Joseph M. Prospero,Alexandre Gatineau,Kathy Panechou,Nancy G. Maynard,Patricia Blackwelder,Swarup China,Andrew P. Ault,Cassandra J. Gaston, 01 February 2021

Timing of fungal spore release dictates survival during atmospheric transport, Daniele Lagomarsino,Oneto, Jacob Golan, Andrea Mazzino, Anne Pringle, Agnese Seminara, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Mar 2020, 117 (10) 5134-5143; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1913752117

NATURAL SWIMMING POOLS

Chlorine vs. Chlorophyll

I have heard a lot of theorization but have seen little to no evidence that these pond mimicking bodies of water are actually as safe for people as a traditional swimming pool. This is not intended to bash natural swimming pools. However, I do some concerns.

I want to preface this by saying I am 110% in favor of integrating natural pools into our industry if proponents of natural pools can provide proof from a reputable third-party researcher indicating that these bodies of water are equally as safe as traditionally maintained swimming pools. This means from water clarity to pathogen control and every aspect in-between.

photo: flicker user Shan Jeniah Burton

NATURAL Swimming POOLS

What sparked this topic? It’s simple enough. Pool industry marketing guru, mastermind behind the insanely popular poolmagazine.com, and friend Joe Trusty asked if I would be a part of a podcast interview.

He had scheduled an episode with Bio Nova VP of Dealer Development, Allen Schnack. I’ve conducted a lot of field and lab research. Much of it focuses on black algae (cyanobacteria biofilms) and mustard algae (diatoms). So, Joe thought my experience would add value to the conversation.

Sharing research with pool pros

An outline of some of my research HERE

I am attempting to be open-minded, so I will ask you to try to do the same. However, there are some things the proponents and designers of these chemical-free alternatives can do to make the whole concept easier to swallow. We were hoping you could share the scientific research that supports your claims.

The head-to-head podcast

My goal is not to steal Trusty’s thunder in releasing his info, so please make sure that you download his podcast. It’s a good idea to give it a listen because I’m not going to talk about the same things here that we discussed on his show:

To bring those that maintain traditional pools up to speed, the sanitation of a natural pool is dependent upon the formation of mustard algae (diatoms) and ‘good’ biofilm. In theory, dosing the water with phosphates and silicates will encourage mustard algae to ‘outgrow’ everything else. In doing so, it will use up all of the nutrients, leaving nothing for anything else.

Love me some silicates

Mustard algae will probably grow faster in these conditions as the plant food concoction supports this (Diatoms being the only thing on the planet known to consume silicates). However, using up all of the nitrates and phosphates only sounds good in theory because just as there are carbon-fixing diatoms, there are also nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria (black algae). As far as ‘good’ biofilms go, I don’t believe there are any.

A bonus tip for the pool pond people would be to add a healthy dose of calcium chloride to their initial treatment. This will enhance the rate of diatom colinization even further. Those tiny little single celled Bacillariophyceae just cant get enough of hard water.

Stankowitz, How to Get Rid of Swimming Pool Algae, 2021

Diseases of animals that people can get

Unfortunately, I can see nothing in designing a natural pool that will prevent bathers from contracting a waterborne zoonotic disease. The wrongly named ‘good’ biofilm will not lessen the odds of illness; in fact, it will increase the odds. You’ll not gain an RWI (recreational water illness) free environment from lily pads, hair grass, cattails, pond sedge, or swamp hibiscus.

I’m not going to speak much because diatoms are known to produce BMAA (β-N-methylamino- l-alanine). This is a neurotoxin. But I imagine you would have to swallow copious amounts of water containing mustard algae (also known as brown or yellow algae) for this to harm a human. But double-check with your doc on that one because I’m a pool guy, dammit! Not a forensic neurotoxicologist.

Chlorine sanitizes and disendects

There are many pathogens that chlorine will eradicate that will be permitted to live in a body of water with no form of sanitation. Topping the list would be Giardia, Leptospirosis, Naegleria fowleri (brain-eating amoeba), Legionella bacteria, E. coli, and more. I did not include Cryptosporidium on the list because it takes a long time at an extremely high chlorine level to eradicate even in chlorinated water.

If it’s poo, it’s two. If it’s runny, it’s twenty 💩

Associated with a human diarrheal incident, it would take a consistent level of twenty ppm (parts per million) of chlorine for 12.75 hours straight. Cryptosporidium is a protozoan encased in an extremely thick shell that allows it to live outside of a host’s body for long periods of time. What does the owner of a natural pool do when the problem is poo?

Warning: This is gross 🤮

A single person who has contracted cryptosporidium will shed 140,845 Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts in 0.14 grams of feces into a swimming pool. Research has shown the average person adds exactly this amount to a swimming pool every time they get in for a period of ten minutes (Gerba 2000). These oocysts can survive for 10 1/2 days at a chlorine level of 1 ppm (longer if cyanuric acid is used). You only need to swallow one to become severely ill. An immunocompromised person only needs to swallow one for it to kill them. I think if calling it butt water reminds people not to allow the water in their mouth while swimming it is absolutely warranted.

Me. I said that.

I know, I know – Don’t drink the butt water! After all, people do dip their hineys in there. We tell folks this time and time again. But, does anyone listen? Even if they did, some nasties do not need to be swallowed to make a person ill. Both Leptospirosis and Naegleria fowleri can enter a person’s body by passing directly through the eye or the membrane in one’s nose.

photo: flicker user Colin Bowern

Don’t drink the butt water

There is an overwhelming amount of scientific research that supports my concerns. I am told there is scientific research available proving just the opposite. We would like to see the research proving waterborne zoonoses cannot survive in a natural pool.

Similar article How to Get Rid of Swimming Pool Algae

Show me the research!

I asked if a health department in the United States permitted a Natural Swimming pool as a public pool. The Webber Park Pool in Minnesota was immediately given as an example. This was a surprise as I was certain there were none. So, curious, I decided to research it a little further.

Unregulated

Sadly, this natural pool is permitted to operate because the county health department does not consider it a swimming pool. In fact, the DOH does not consider it to be a lake (which they also regulate) either. The Health Department in Minnesota has designated this ‘PLAKE’ (pool/lake) to be something in between, and therefore it is something they DO NOT REGULATE at all.

Okay, but are homeowners running these important tests on the pools in their backyards?

The Webber Natural Swimming Pool mimics the natural cleaning mechanisms of a pond or lake and is not chlorinated.  Potentially sensitive populations such as the very young, elderly, pregnant women and the immunocompromised may have a greater health risk when using the Webber Natural Swimming Pool.

Webber Natural Swimming Pool Website

As much as 10% of all drownings have lack of water clarity as a contributing factor

Obviously, the disease is not my only concern in a greenish pool. Pool owners are told water tests are not required, and that scares me a little. The increased potential for drowning due to a diminished level of clarity. Jeopardizing the composition of the vessel. These are also things that top the list.

Check the Talking Pools Podcast this Friday, September 10, 2021 where we continue our discussion on Natural Swimming Pools:

POOL ROUTES FOR SALE

Let’s fast forward just a little bit to month 6. Rudy is back to 40 accounts like when he started. And Joe, POOL ROUTES FOR SALE is also now at 40 accounts! And he kept his budget of $5,000. This is amazing! So which way is better in your eyes? A lot of us will probably say it’s Joe, hands down. He saved all that money, and it’s all profit moving forward. Others of us might say, I like what Rudy did. He had everything in place from day 1, and although he’s still paying for it, it seems less stressful and manageable.

photo: flicker user Ruth Hartnup

The answer is, you’re both right. It’s not which is right or wrong; it’s what type of person you are? Let’s wade into the deep end. What kind of details weren’t mentioned in this hypothetical story? Let’s imagine both Rudy and Joe had the same bills each month. Mortgage, auto, insurance, food, etc. Rudy was able to pay all of his expenses from day one. Even though he took on a substantial financial obligation, he was already making enough money to provide personal and business expenses.

POOL ROUTES FOR SALE

On the other hand, Joe had to pull out of savings each month until he reached his goal of 40 accounts. Do you think that could be stressful? Or maybe in a slightly different scenario, Joe went and got a part-time job to make sure he could pay all his bills while he built his pool route? I did this. I worked three jobs at one point while I built my route.

photo: flicker user Martin Cooper

What else wasn’t mentioned in the story? How about the time spent each day for each person. Rudy spent, on average, 5 hours a day and only worked four days a week. He had time for grandkids, cooking classes, even teaching others about the pool industry. Shoot, maybe he even wrote a children’s book 😉. Joe, on the other hand, was on-call all the time. Every time the phone rang, it was a potential new customer. Rudy had all his customers saved in his contacts. He would only answer a number if he recognized it.

Joe’s throwing Rudy under the bus

Everyone else went to voicemail. Joe didn’t feel like he could take that risk. He wanted to be ready to answer right away. Joe spent about 6 hours each day and even worked on the weekends until he hit his goal. What about the time involved going to do bids and estimates? Rudy made five bids in 6 months. He only wanted 40 accounts, so there was no pressure on him. Joe made 150 bids in 6 months. We didn’t talk about how Joe didn’t get the account and the time spent going from one place to another. Joe doesn’t believe in over-the-phone estimates, smart man.

photo: flicker user Janice Waltzer

At this point in the story, you are probably thinking I’m pro buying a route? You’re mistaken. I’ve heard horror stories about route purchases over and over again. I’ve heard of brokers lying, sellers lying, customer information is incorrect, equipment not working when they said it did (see sellers lying above), terrible bookkeeping, incorrect addresses, wrong phone numbers, accounts that haven’t paid their bill in 3 months, escrow releasing all money to the seller ahead of schedule, non compete clauses being broken, and the list goes on and on and on. And my personal favorite I wanted to save for its sentence – the broker writing in the fine print of the contract that if the buyer sells any of the accounts purchased through this transaction…the broker is entitled to make their commission of the future sale.

similar article Buying a Pool Route – Pros & Cons

No, this is not a joke! Do you still think I’m pro route purchase? Hopefully, you don’t know what to believe, haha. I’ve heard of some that went the advertising route, and they were full in a matter of weeks! And they only spent a couple hundred in ads, while most was all word of mouth. How can you argue with that person that they should consider a route purchase? You can’t. (results not typical)

50 Shades of Blue!

The fact is, both of these methods work, and both ways have horror stories. People are successful in buying routes and are also successful in not buying them. The main deciding factor should be your risk tolerance. No one else is going to pay your mortgage, buy your food, and make your family feel secure. Don’t be so quick to listen to all the mouths telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. Whether you decide to buy a route or not, YOU are the one that will determine the success of your pool company with POOL ROUTES FOR SALE

Our mission is to have every pool company work together to maximize profit, minimize travel time between stops and be kind to the planet. We do this by enabling the swapping of accounts to build efficient routes

Joe Wilmot, President/CEO of Pool Trader

Pool Rip-offs & Explosions

This has been a trying pool season, no doubt. We have made it through it (knock on wood, fingers crossed 🤞) for the most part. Labor day weekend is only a few days away, and that is the official unofficial close of the swimming pool year, at least the beginning of it for the folks up north. But we still need to be wary of Pool Rip-offs.

With every crisis, there will be sorry SOBs that will rip you off

Hey, If it were up to me, we would round all of these internet scam low-life dirtbags up and torch their asses in a flaming dumpster. Unfortunately, all I can say is be careful. What seems too good to be true is almost always going to hurt worse than pooping out flaming porcupines!

Pool Rip-offs

This one is almost too cute to be mad about. The price on this bucket of PEZ size chlorine tablets was nearly forty bucks a month ago, but it looks like chemicals for the Barbie dream house have dropped in value with the end of season demand.

You Gotsta read the ᶠ ͥ ⁿᵉ ᵖʳ ͥ ⁿᵗ, or you may fall victim to a play on size. These chuckle butts are offering a bucket of 0.3″ (NOT 3″) tablets.

Honestly, I may purchase a bucket anyway (now that the price has come down) as both a souvenir and a reminder of how f** ked-up tricksters with a slide of hand can be in desperate times.

Don’t blow your ass up!

Seriously, this is no joke! Just because your normal chlorine tablets are hard to find doesn’t mean you can mix and match products to get yourself through a season. No, not even once!

Similar Story Chlorine Gas Cloud Injuries at Public Pools Caused by Liquid Chlorine Injection Malfunction ⚠️

The important thing to remember is that different chlorine tablets are available, each with its own chemical makeup. The normal tabs you use (trichlor) can react violently with a tablet made of calcium hypochlorite (Cal hypo) or sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione (Dichlor).

Even if you do not put the tablets together at the same time, an explosion may occur. It only takes a small amount of residual remaining from trichlor to make a cal hypo tablet. Go BOOM! 💥

In 2021 several individuals were hospitalized after unknowingly adding a couple of 3″ cal hypo tablets to an existing feeder that had once held 3″ trichlor tablets. Thank God they are Okay! I reached out to a few for comment, but they have yet to respond.

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How the product is added can start a ticking time bomb 💣

Chlorinating chemicals like cal hypo and dichlor are both available in granular form, and many people have chosen to go this route in the great trichlor drought. Heck, I use granule cal hypo myself on the reg.

But the method you add the product to the pool can put you in a precarious situation. The label instructions may say the product can be safely added directly into the pool skimmer; however, if you have a trichlor feeder plumb down the line in the system and even one granule finds its way inside, an explosion may occur. I’ve seen where these things have blown a hole through a cinderblock wall.

Guess what?! Dichlor and Cal hypo feeders do exist, as do feeders for liquid chlorine. If you are in a situation, as many of us have been this year, where you are forced to buy a product different from what you normally use, you need to replace your feeder with one designed for that new chemical you are using.

NST Cal Hypo tablet feeder

Don’t go putting these in a floater either!

Even the mechanics within the chlorinator itself will be different and designed for that specific chemical. Trichlor tablets use an erosion feeder. This style of chlorinator fills with water, and all the tablets inside dissolve at the same time.

A cal hypo feeder is a ‘bird bath’ style operation where one stacks the tablets in the unit, but the only 3″ puck that gets wet is the one at the bottom of the stack. When that one completely dissolves, the stack drops the width of that one tablet, and the next is the one that erodes.

More Automation

A dichlor feed system typically feeds the granule product only. The powder is stored in a tank at the top of the unit and disperses an amount set by the operator necessary to maintain the desired ppm of chlorine. A liquid system operates similarly where a peristaltic pump injects the liquid at a user-controlled rate or is completely automated using ORP.

I know quite a few people are reading this that want to call BS because they have been doing exactly what I have said not to do. The truth is a violent reaction might not occur every single time. However, you are playing with borrowed time. I don’t want to see anyone injured because they were misinformed, uninformed, or because they think they are hot sh*t, and the rules of chemistry do not apply to them. It is a season of hard times, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make smart decisions and adhere to safe operating practices.


Langelier Saturation Index Inaccuracies

The Langelier Saturation Index is the basis of swimming pool water chemistry. A simple mathematical formula determines whether the water is in balance (neither corrosive nor scale forming). Realistically, not a measure of the success in preventing algae or bacteria, but a calculation designed specifically for the protection of the vessel, the swimming pool itself—a determination of calcium carbonate saturation. Let’s face it; we have come to depend upon the accuracy of the pool industry LSI (Langelier Saturation Index).

The water being in balance is extremely important, and the LSI is a tool we rely upon. After all, we know water needs to have a certain amount of calcium and carbonate in solution, and the level we need varies upon both temperature and pH. If the water is found to be corrosive, it will pull calcium and carbonate from the pool walls and floor, etching the surface. When the water is scale forming, everything from a cloudy water condition to calcium carbonate deposits forming about the pool.


This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

Many think calcium carbonate saturation is only important in plaster pools, and that’s not the case. Nowadays, liner companies utilize calcium carbonate in the production of vinyl. The amount used varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but it has been found that corrosive water can pull calcium carbonate from vinyl when the content is greater than 7%. It is also a fact that cobalt staining is more prevalent in fiberglass pools where a corrosive saturation index persists.

Dr. Wilfred Langelier, professor emeritus of civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley published this concept in a paper titled The analytical control of anti-corrosion water treatment in 1936 in the detailing the model was first published in 1936 in the Journal of the American Water Works Association. Most are aware of this; however, a common misconception is that we actually use Dr. Langelier’s model, which was designed to determine the Potential for calcium carbonate precipitation. In actuality, we do not.

A Mother of a Math Problem

Langelier’s formula, despite its accuracy, is extremely complex. It also was not designed to determine whether water was corrosive or scale forming. Instead, as I mentioned above, the calculation only determined the calcium carbonate precipitation potential (CCPP). Not a guarantee that a problem with calcium would occur, only a predictive measure of an increased possibility. Regardless, Langelier (already widely known for his advances in water treatment due to studies documented in his 1921 paper Coagulation of Water with Alum by Prolonged Agitation) came up with a highly complex formula. That was beyond practical for longhand calculation – the math was insane!

View the entire Journal of the American Water Works Association 1936-10, Vol 28 HERE

Due to its complexity and advances in science, the formula was simplified in 1965 by Carrier (heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration solutions). This new version is often referred to as the ‘improved’ version and was the first to call the formula the Langelier Saturation Index. Oh yeah, I almost forgot – pHs is the name Langelier gave to his formula for predicting calcium carbonate precipitation potential.

Is Carrier’s LSI improved? Answering that question is beyond my skill set, but I can say it definitely dumbed it down. With that, of course, some suggest this revised 1965 method is too simplistic to be as accurate. However, this new calculation is more similar to the formula that we use now in the swimming pool industry. That’s right; we’re not up to what we use for swimming pools just yet. That doesn’t happen until 1974.

Change is good, right?

This was when John A. Wojtowicz of Chemcon got his hands on it. Wojtowicz pointed out that the LSI in its current version did not consider other alkaline substances that would contribute to the Total Alkalinity in a swimming pool (i.e., cyanuric acid, boric acid, etc.). So, the formula was retooled once again. See The Effect of Cyanuric Acid and
Other Interferences on Carbonate Alkalinity Measurement
in the Journal of the Swimming Pool and Spa Industry

This is where we are at now – the Wojtowicz Saturation Index? Not sure if this name will stick, but it is certainly more accurate than calling is LSI. Misnomer or not, this is the saturation index calculation that we use in the pool industry today. This is where the formula for the LSI apps we use originated. Accuracy in attribution or not, is it more accurate in predicting the potential for calcium carbonate to precipitate in an open body of water?

Crystal structure of Calcite By Materialscientist at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35003858

I thought it would be interesting to see the difference in calculation between the three using values we would likely see in a swimming pool, specifically omitting the presence of cyanuric acid, borate, or any other substances that might affect our Total Alkalinity.

Our example water test:

Water Temperature

pH

Calcium Hardness

Total Alkalinity

Cyanuric acid

Borate

Phosphates

Total Dissolved Solids

81° F

7.5

300 ppm

90 ppm

0 ppm

0 ppm

0 ppm

1,000 ppm

Saturation Results:

Version

1936 – Dr. Wilfred Langelier – pHs

1965 – Carrier – LSI

1974 – Wojtowicz – Pool Industry LSI (using a currently popular industry app)

Index Calculation

7.3

.

0.24

.

0.00

Determination

Supersaturated – Scaling possible

Scale forming and corrosive

In Balance – not scale forming, not corrosive.

A Formula never intended to be used in an open body of water exposed to atmospheric pressure 🤷‍♂️

Another factor to consider – The saturation index is said to only be accurate within certain parameters. Luckily, the chemistry we keep in swimming pools typically falls within that range. That is except for Saltwater pools.

  • pH: 6.5 to 9.5
  • Temperature: 32 to 212°F
  • Bicarbonate alkalinity: 10 to 800 ppm
  • Calcium hardness: 50 to 700 ppm (up to 900 ppm)
  • Total dissolved solids: 50 to 1000

Accuracy of the pool industry LSI

If Dr. Langelier’s pHs is the more accurate measure of determining the water’s potential of calcium carbonate precipitation and was truly only changed for ease of calculation, with the capabilities of cell phones, wouldn’t it make more sense to develop an app that could quickly perform the complex equation? Of course, Wojtowicz’s Carbonate Alkalinity would be a necessary modification in a swimming pool application.

If not, and today’s LSI method continues to be the route we take, do we really need an app or studies on mathematical calculations at all? I mean, the reality of it is shooting for the dead center of the ideal range on the three values for which an ideal range exists; the water will always be in LSI balance down to a temperature of 48°F and as high as 104°F anyway. The exception being a saltwater pool in which none of the calculations are apparently accurate anyway.

Specific Parameters

Even if the inaccuracy of the LSI at a Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) level above 1,000 ppm did not exist, maintaining a pH of 7.5, Carbonate Alkalinity of 90 ppm, and a Calcium Hardness of 300 ppm would keep the water balanced on today’s pool industry LSI balanced in water temp range of 63°F to well over 104 degrees (TDS of 3,000 ppm).

Have an LSI app on your phone? Try it! Set the pH at 7.5, Carbonate Alkalinity at 90 ppm, and the Calcium Hardness at 300 ppm. Now play around with different numbers for temperature and TDS. Do we really need an app? Or, would a simple dosing calculator suffice?

Pool Route Purchase

Before I even start, I need to clarify something. You have to think of a pool route purchase. In this context…you are buying a business. Does that bring a little more weight to the situation? But this is precisely what you’re thinking of doing. This subject is talked about very casually within the industry. And a lot of the time, there are more who are against it than for it. They claim, “I can take that same money and advertise to build my business for way cheaper.” And these people aren’t wrong. I have done this personally! But is it that much cheaper?

Let’s tell a hypothetical story and timeline of 2 pool pros. Their names will be Rudy and Joe. Rudy has decided to purchase a route of 40 customers while Joe has decided to build from the ground up by advertising only, but his goal is also 40 customers. In this story, I’ll use others’ real-life details in the pool industry while some made-up but realistic information. Like Rudy and Joe – excellent fake names 😊

Pool Route Purchase

Rudy goes online and searches for a pool route for sale. He gets “routed” to a pool broker. He finds the 40 pool route in the general area he wants to operate, and the price is $50,000. The broker provides the details, paperwork, notary, escrow, warranty (90-day pro-rated money-back guarantee if the customer is lost at no fault of Rudy), etc., and the broker makes a 10% fee for this service. (this usually comes out of the seller’s side) Rudy doesn’t need any training, and he’s fully knowledgeable in the pool industry. He starts working right away and has a monthly income of $4,000 for service. Repairs and additional services are extra per our industry standard. So let’s leave Rudy for the moment and meet Joe.

Pool Route Purchase

Joe is going to advertise and build from the ground up.  He thinks he can do this for 1/10th the cost and get just as many customers. Joe set’s aside $5,000 and begins to create his ad campaign. He spends two days getting everything in order, logo, wording on the ads, FB marketplace account, Google account, etc. He even creates a profile on a couple of other social media platforms to advertise for free! The ads launch, and the posts are made. One week passes, Joe has zero accounts. The second week goes by, and the traffic has started to come in.

The phone is ringing, and Joe is going out on bids and estimates. End of week 2, Joe has two clients on the books. Week 3 comes, and the traffic has dipped just a little bit, but Joe ended up getting two more customers for a total of 4. Week 4 is here. Joe continues to have the ads run every week. He is making posts almost every day on the free sites. The best week yet, Joe gets 3 for a new total of 7 at the end of one month. The monthly income on the books is $700 going into month 2.

Buying a Pool Route lll

At the end of the month, Rudy lost two customers. One was his fault, he left the gate open, and the dog got out. The other wasn’t his fault; the owner sold the house, and Rudy couldn’t keep the account. Rudy decides he will give a couple of customers an incentive; if they advertise word of mouth for him, he’ll compensate with a month of free service if he gets new accounts. So his monthly income is down to $3800, but he did get a credit back for the one customer. Joe did the same thing as Rudy, and he gave them an incentive to all his customers to help him grow and compensate with a month of free service.

Let’s move to month two now. Rudy ends up getting one new customer and ends the month with 39 total. Nothing else to report on Rudy; let’s visit Joe. That’s far more exciting!

Joe is hitting his stride! He tripled his business and now has 21 accounts. He decided to double down the amount on the ad spend each week, and he also doubled the amount of time he spends on social media. But, he has not increased his original amount of the $5,000 ad spend, just increased the weekly spend to speed things up. And a few customers referred him to new clients to have some free service coming once the new customers have stayed on for at least a couple of months. Joe is no fool. In a previous venture, he would promise free service before verifying an excellent new client. Not this time. End of month 2, Joe has $2100 incoming on the books. Half his ad spend is gone at this point.

Month 3 – Rudy is unchanged. He has 39 accounts and $3900 on the books. Back to Joe

Joe decided to keep the higher ad spend in place. He is confident he will get to 40 accounts this month but doesn’t hit the goal. He got a few new customers, but he also lost one because he left the gate open. These darn gates are hard to remember to close when you’re so busy. And that customer had also referred Joe to one of the new clients, so Joe lost that one too because they want to use the same pool service. Lame. But Joe stays positive, and he ends the month with 28 accounts and $2800 now on the books.

Our mission is to have every pool company work together to maximize profit, minimize travel time between stops and be kind to the planet. We do this by enabling the swapping of accounts to build efficient routes

Joe Wilmot, President/CEO of Pool Trader

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Pool Acid Scarcity? Try a Borate-Bicarbonate Buffer

In the last article, we spoke about some of the alternatives to muriatic acid that are available. But how cool would it be with the current scarcity of products if we didn’t need to adjust the pH in the first place? That’s actually not as far-fetched an option as it sounds. Okay, maybe not need an adjustment, but we can set up our water chemistry so that the need for acid occurs much less often. Establishing a Borate-Bicarbonate buffer system will allow us to do just that.

If it sounds familiar, it’s because we have mentioned this before in an article that gets hella deep into the chemistry behind the method, How Borates in Swimming Pools Buffer pH. But, the current state of the industry warrants bringing it up again. If we can ‘lock’ our pH in place, we won’t need as much acid, so it doesn’t matter that there isn’t any to be found.

Preventing a downward drift

A buffer is a chemical level that serves as the water’s ability to resist a change in pH. It does this by changing things that would raise or lower pH into something that won’t. Total Alkalinity (TA) is the one that you are probably most familiar with. Even though it buffers against both upward and downward drifts in pH, it does its best at resisting a pH drop.

1.4 pounds of sodium bicarbonate (Baking soda) will increase the Total Alkalinity of 10,000 gallons of water by 10 ppm

Sodium bicarbnate

Maintaining a cyanuric acid level (aka CyA; aka stabilizer; aka conditioner) will actually do the same. Though not as good as Total Alkalinity, CyA will help keep the pH from going up or down and does its best job as a buffer against a dip. Like I said initially, it won’t stop the pH level from moving, but it does make it much more difficult for it to go from point A to any other point on that 0 to 14 scale.

13 ounces weight of cyanuric acid will increase the CyA level of 10,000 gallons of water by 10 ppm

Cyanuric acid

Preventing an upward drift

Establishing a borate level will also buffer against a movement in either direction but excels in resisting an upward drift. Borate in water works similarly to Total Alkalinity in that it changes things that would drive the pH upward into something that won’t. Obviously, if the goal is to use much less acid, this is the level that is most important. But it’s the combination of the three that really keeps the pH in the acceptable range.

There are two different chemicals we can use to establish a borate level:

37 pounds of Borax will raise the borate level of 10,000 gallons of water by 50 ppm

 

– or –

23.75 pounds of Boric acid will raise the borate level of 10,000 gallons of water by 50 ppm

Boric acid

20 Mule Team Borax might be a lot easier to find. It is located in the laundry aisle of your local grocery store. But, it takes a lot higher of a dose and will jack up both your pH and TA, requiring a large dose of acid to rebalance. However, once rebalanced, it will pretty much stay in place.

Borate-Bicarbonate buffer system

Another cool thing about borates is that once a level is established, it does not dissipate or degrade. This is similar to calcium hardness, Total Dissolved Solids, and CyA. Unless you replace water by draining, it will maintain its level. You may find you have to tweak it slightly from time to time due to water loss from backwashing, bather drag out, or bather splash out. Of course, a pool with a leak will have difficulty maintaining a sufficient amount. This brings up a good point – if you are going to start using borates in your pool, you will need a borate test kit.

The best possible borate-bicarbonate buffer system you could set up in your pool would have the buffering trio at the following levels:

  • Total Alkalinity of 80 to 100 ppm
  • Cyanuric acid at 30 to 50 ppm
  • Borate level of 30 to 50 ppm (do not exceed 50 ppm)

Muriatic Acid Alternatives

I guess we can add muriatic acid to the list of pool products that are becoming impossible to find this year. The truth is it’s been kind of scarce for the past month, but like everything we can’t find this season, the out of stocks seem to be spotty across the nation. This has left a few wondering if talk of the shortages is straight talk at all. Muriatic acid alternatives.

Similar Article The Addition of Muriatic Acid

Sadly, it looks as though things are going to get worse before they get better. In the middle of last week, another chemical manufacturer closed the doors at one of its factories. Olin Corporation has declared a force majeure for the supply of products produced at their McIntosh, Alabama facility due to an unplanned equipment failure. This affects all products produced at this facility to include chlorine, caustic soda, sodium hypochlorite, and muriatic acid, to name a few.

hydrochloric acid solution in glass

Sulfuric Acid (H₂SO₄)

You do have other options if you cannot locate any muriatic acid (HCl) to use for pH control in your pools. Sulfuric acid is an option available but may have hiccups in supply due to the increase in demand caused by the shortage of HCl. The product may come at a slightly higher price point than the normal cost of muriatic acid, but the dose will be similar. 25.5 fluid ounces of muriatic acid (31.45% hydrochloric acid) or 26 fluid ounces of 38.5% sulfuric acid in 10,000 gallons will lower the Total Alkalinity (TA) by 10 ppm and the pH by an equal amount (the actual drop in pH is dependent upon both the starting TA and pH).

Sodium Bisulfate (NaHSO₄)

Dry acid (sodium bisulfate) is another option you may find available This product is even more costly to purchase than sulfuric acid and requires a much heftier dose. It will take 34.4 ounces by weight of dry acid (93.2% Sodium Bisulfate) in 10,000 gallons to lower the Total Alkalinity (TA) by 10 ppm and the pH by an equal amount as the 25.5 fluid ounces of muriatic acid or 26 fluid ounces of sulfuric acid (again, the actual drop in pH is dependent upon both the starting TA and pH).

The downfall to using sulfuric acid or sodium bisulfate (dry acid) is in adding sulfates to the pool water. There are two problems with this. The first is that the presence of such will shorten the life of a salt cell in a saltwater pool.

Similar Article How Borates in Swimming Pools Buffer pH

Sulfates

We do have the ability to test for sulfates in water. Unfortunately, we do not know what level of sulfates is actually problematic. We do know that all saltwater system manufacturers advise against the use of sulfide-containing chemicals. None have given a maximum ppm that would be considered safe. So, it is recommended that with a saltwater pool, we stay away from these products altogether.

Carbon Dioxide

CO2 Injection is another option. It is not often used in a residential application or even with average size commercial swimming pools. But, for large aquatic centers, it is often the go-to method of pH control.

When carbon dioxide is added to water it forms carbonic acid (H2CO3) which dissociates to form bicarbonate (HCO3) and hydrogen ions (H+). As pH is the measure of hydrogen ion activity in the water measured in the converse (The greater the H+ activity, the lower the pH), the hydrogen from the carbonic acid lowers the pH. However, as we also got bicarbonate (HCO3) from this uncoupling, the injection of CO2 ultimately increases the Total Alkalinity (The measure of carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides, and cyanurates) as well. In fact, carbon dioxide injection is the only means of lowering the pH that will result in the increase of Total Alkalinity.

In using this method you will reach a point where adding an acid is required. Not for pH – we have that taken care of with the CO2 alone. The acid will be needed to adjust the climbing Total Alkalinity, but the dose will not be near as often or in as large a quantity.

Muriatic Acid Alternatives

The second issue is in the potential for damage to stonework. However, the level of concern here has been thoroughly researched. Sulfate levels of 300 ppm or more are problematic. At least this gives us something measurable.

The way this season has been going, it is highly possible that you may find your distributor or pool store completely out of any acid. Vinegar is just one example of an alternative that will get the job done in a pinch. Not the 5% table vinegar, I mean you could, but it would take ten times as much. At $5.79 per gallon, that would be a little over eleven bucks to drop the TA by 10 ppm in 10K gallons of water.

Acetic Acid (C₂H₄O₂)

A 45% acetic acid could be a suitable addition to the list of muriatic acid alternatives. It would take 32.385 fluid ounces of this concentrated vinegar to equal our 25.5 fluid ounces of muriatic acid or 26 fluid ounces of sulfuric acid, lowering the Total Alkalinity of 10K gallons by 10 ppm and the pH by an equal amount. At $19.99 per gallon, $5.06 would be the cost of this dose. Still, extra precautions would need to be taken. Significant fuming and more severe skin burning than muriatic acid is a concern. Nitrile gloves would be required since a 25%, or higher acetic acid will penetrate ordinary latex.

Can your customer require proof of Vaccine?

This came up the other day because a peer was asked, so I thought I would snoop around. As we go through this, I am not a HIPAA Lawyer; I am just a pool guy, dammit! However, there is enough information about the required proof of vaccine that we can see where this is going.

Proof of Vaccination required to clean pools

Apparently, and you might not be happy about this, the answer is yes (again, not a lawyer). Until new laws pass it’s really no different than the State’s existing vaccination laws for childcare. State vaccination laws have been in place since 1855 and are deeply ingrained in our system. All fifty states require them to attend public school and even college. The law even applies to health care workers. Of course, all fifty also offer exemptions to one degree or another.

A smartphone displaying a valid digital vaccination certificate for COVID-19. Vaccination, immunity passport, proof of vaccination.

“A business can absolutely ask that question,” Lindsay Wiley, American University Washington College of Law, told USA Today. This was when talking about the rights of a business regarding their patrons. Why are these different? Lawmakers likening it to the ‘No Shoes, No Service’ policy. This, even though many states are taking steps to prohibit businesses requiring employees vaccination. WTF?!

Similar Article Apocalypse Good for Pool Business

Vendors have a separate entranceway

Many buildings already have rules and restrictions in place for vendors that go beyond state guidelines, say Habitat, New York’s Cooperative and Condominium Community. However, they add that some lawyers feel that mandating a vaccine for outside workers goes too far, both logistically and legally.

Oregon already requires all businesses to ask for proof of vaccination of anyone entering their establishment without a mask, reports MSN. Does that mean your state is next? Imagine the shit show if you must provide proof of vaccines of employees you can not require to have them? And, who at the facility is going to oversee this for every employee of every outside vendor?

For details on the Algae Prevention & Eradication Specialist Certification class CLICK HERE

A Supervision Nightmare

How does this affect you in the immediate future? It doesn’t, at least not on a wide scale. Except for Oregon and possibly Chicago, which becomes a non-issue if you ensure your techs wear a mask. They have the right, it is at the specific business’s discretion whether or not they want to require proof. Personally, I do not see a ton of companies jumping on the vaccination police wagon. It will come on a case-to-case basis, and that is exactly how you should address it until it changes.

Pool Pro Disagrees with Celebrity Contractor

On July 4th, Canadian celebrity builder/contractor Mike Holmes from the popular series Holmes on Homes shared an article from his Holmes on Homes ‘Make it Right’ podcast site titled Swimming Pools 101 – Everything You Need to Know Before Adding a Pool. The article, originally published in December of 2020, briefly discusses the joys and benefits of pool ownership before turning to a comparison discussion on the types of pools available. It was all fine and dandy until a Pool Pro Disagrees with a Celebrity Contractor.

Vinyl, Fiberglass, or Gunite

Embedded in this article is the YouTube video of the contractor’s 3rd podcast episode, ‘The All Season’s Leisure Pool,’ which had originally premiered on April 21st of this year. The blog post also features a television commercial Holme’s had appeared in as a Celebrity Spokesperson from late 2020. Nothing out of the norm here; everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and everyone deserves to get paid (I’m assuming the television commercial was not done for the Fiberglass pool manufacturer out of the goodness of Mike’s heart).

So far, so good, nothing to see here. But, in that write-up is also a chart comparing numerous features of the three different pool types, vinyl, fiberglass, and gunite which the fiberglass pool manufacturer had created. This includes everything from the speed of installation to vessel type durability; even the comfort of the surface on the bather’s feet is rated.

It Happened on Facebook

This is where things hooked a sudden left. Shortly after Mike Holmes, or Mike Holme’s social media manager, posted the article to – wait for it – the Holmes on Homes Podcast page on Facebook, the chart was read by a swimming pool professional, Scott Walker. The pool pro disagreed and shared his opinion as a comment on the contractor’s post. In an attempt to correct what he believed to be a biased representation, Walker may have been a little passionate in his attempt to ensure the public receives a more partial comparison.

Similar Article How Can a Homeowner Tell if a Pool Person Has Had Any Training?

Pool Pro Disagrees with Celebrity Contractor

Holmes quickly responded, suggesting Scott calm down and asking if the pool pro thought the chart was wrong. This is where the magic of a Facebook post takes place. The contractor’s response to Walker quickly received 897 reactions and a whopping 176 comments. These were either supporting Holmes, bashing Walker, or both. At least one of those comments in that branch of the thread is from Walker himself. There are also a handful of other pool professionals sharing their agreement that the chart was deceiving.

Screen shot of Talking Pools Podcast Facebook Page

I shared the post on the Talking Pools Podcast page. There I referred to it as ‘The Battle between TV Contractor Mike Holmes and friend of the Talking Pools Show & real-life Pool Pro Scott Walker.’ To this, Holmes quickly commented that there was no battle and was just looking to learn. Okay, my bad. Disagreement may have been a better choice. The majority of the 791 comments on the celebrity page are made by people other than Mike Holmes or Scott Walker.

A viral post is born

It was fans of the Holmes podcast and professionals from the swimming pool industry to a much lesser degree. Holmes’s statement here set a very different narrative for the 150 comments that ensued. Regardless, FB is telling me that this share received over 4,400 engagements. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of activity the original post is receiving, but it’s got to be huge. I would think it is not very likely that Holme’s expected an article about pool types would receive this reaction.

How would you rank the three pool types (Vinyl, Fiberglass, Gunite) in a Good, Better, Best rating?