Swimming Pool Supply Chain Broken

This is a hot topic right now. I’m sure some people who work with swimming pools have been able to find everything they need this year, but I don’t know who they are. Maybe we don’t know who they are because they’re quiet. Or, maybe we don’t hear about them because, in 2021, they don’t exist. Everyone who visits a distributor to find what they need for a pool customer walks away empty-handed. Every pool owner who walks into a pool store leaves disappointed due to a broken swimming pool supply chain.

Did Swimming pool industry manufacturers drop the ball?

But it was only supposed to be a chlorine shortage. We’ve heard enough about this, the unexpected growth of the pool industry due to COVID-19, and then the single factory in Louisiana that burned in the aftermath of a hurricane. Unfortunately, that is not the only shortage people are facing. In fact, it seems to be everything to one extent or another.

Broken promises

With that, some companies seem to be more in the crosshairs of angry pool professionals than others. That seems to be directly related to promises of a steady supply despite the odds against it, assurances these manufacturers would not be able to make good on.

A couple has tried to come forth and explain the reasons that they have been unable to deliver. However, a list of excuses offers little solace to service companies or homeowners in need of products for their swimming pools. In the case of the pool tech, this lack of supply is affecting their ability to do business.

They had all winter to prepare!

The truth is that this Shit Show, as our friend Averi likes to call it, is not a swimming pool industry manufacturer f**k up, not entirely anyway. Yes, mistakes and failed guarantees have been made, not by all, but definitely by some. But, those errors have had little bearing on the current swimming pool supply chain issues we face.

photo credit: Robert Tobias

In reality, it’s not just us. I know that knowing that makes about as much difference as a pimple on the ass of a field mouse. But, every U.S. industry is dealing with supply chain problems, and in each, the catalyst is the same pandemic-driven gremlin.

The single thing all manufacturers have in common is a shortage of factory workers. Transportation issues only exacerbate the problem. Unfortunately, experts are predicting that the current labor shortage the U.S. is facing is here to stay. That will, in turn, result in inflation.

There goes the toilet paper again!

According to Business Insider, current product shortages in the U.S. include Computer chips, used cars, rental cars, gas, plastic, oil, truck drivers, Uber & Lyft drivers, houses, vacation rentals, lumber, toilet paper, diapers, tampons, furniture, chicken, bacon, hot dogs, cheese, coffee, seafood, olive oil, chlorine, corn, medical oxygen, labor, and more.

I don’t honestly expect anyone reading this to give a crap that the condiment industry is running out of ketchup. I’m only sharing this because I believe we would have had problems with the supply of chlorine this year, whether the Lake Charles factory had burned or not. It was unavoidable.

Similar article 2021 U.S. Chlorine Shortage

Help Wanted

We can blame the workforce issues all day long, but it doesn’t resolve the problem. Besides, there must have been a point months ago where factories realized they didn’t have enough staff to meet production needs – it would have been better to inform the consumers then.

To manage this cluster f**k, we don’t need the industry manufacturers to explain why there are supply problems ad nauseum. We know there’s a problem; we don’t need excuses; we need product. Right now, the only thing preventing growth in our industry and the growth of our companies is chemicals and equipment not being delivered in sufficient quantity. Without that, we are dead in the water.

Sorry, but there is a nationwide shortage on…

Asking service professionals and builders to be understanding when our customers are not is too heavy an ask. We need the supply issue rectified, and that needs to occur yesterday. Honestly, I don’t care how you plan to fix it. I expect that you already have your best people working on exactly that.

Don’t tell us what you think we want to hear; instead, we need a realistic expectation of when you will resolve this. If you don’t know when you will be up to speed, tell us that. At least we will be able to source a different means. Whatever industry manufacturers come up with, it shouldn’t involve a sudden influx in job seekers because that is unlikely to happen.

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Memorial Day weekend is here, and many pool owners continue to investigate alternative means of disinfecting water in hopes of salvaging what could have been the swimming pool season that wasn’t. Others, who were not lucky enough to get their hands on tabs when word of the shortage was first announced, continue a desperate and futile scavenger hunt searching for the fabled ‘last bucket of chlorine tablets.’ Make your pool immune to chlorine crisis.

Tell your local pool professional you want to use what the commercial pools use.

Unfortunately, when opportunity knocks, opportunists will not hesitate to take advantage. Price gouging, as had occurred at the beginning of the pandemic with items such as Lysol® and Purell, has not attempted to hide the ransom demands placed on remaining Trichlor (stabilized chlorine tablets) product across eCommerce platforms such as Amazon. Some sellers have increased their asking price from $3.60 per pound in May of 2020 to greater than $14.00 per pound in early May 2021. Ouch! I swear I don’t know how some people sleep at night.

Similar Article: Yes, I said POOLMAGEDDON

May be an image of body of water and text that says "Û hth hth heret HOME Pool Care Sanitize POOL CARE hth AAR POSTS Follow 3-Inch Chlorinating Tablets Sanitizes and protects pool water so you can enjoy swimming all season long WTF! $35999 2 SANITIZE 3'CHLORINATING TABLETS"

Even though the nation is facing poolocalypse, the 250,000 public pools in the U.S. are not as concerned. Call it a Chlorine Crisis Immunity. The pool operators and aquatic directors at these recreational venues, for the most part, are already using the alternatives the Pool Pros are suggesting that backyard oases seek salvation. In fact, in many states, public pool use of the now scarce trichlor chlorine tablets is illegal and has been for decades.

Make your pool immune to the chlorine crisis

This is due to the stabilizer the product contains and its propensity to increase to undesirable levels over time, slowing the chlorine’s ability to fight bacteria. Everything from apartment complexes to million-gallon natatoriums, these facilities have been using liquid chlorine bleach, calcium hypochlorite tablets, saltwater, Ozone, or UV for decades.

The same holds with new pools for homeowners in 2021. Builders have adapted and are building pools that are no longer dependent on the now insufficient supply of trichlor tablets.


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Could a Deadly Chlorine Gas Cloud Happen at Your Apartment Complex Pool

Liquid Chlorine Bleach + Muriatic Acid = Chlorine Gas ?

Chlorine Gas Cloud at Apartment Complex?

Almost All of the Gas Cloud Incidents in the News occurred in Pools using Liquid Chlorine Bleach (Sodium Hypochlorite)

Hey guys! I guess there has been some confusion about this. Back in December, I put together an article where I spoke about the occurrence of Chlorine Gas Clouds at Public Swimming Pools. When I released this, I started to get some stimulating reactions. I then realized some folks were looking at the subject of the piece and not getting any further than that. Chlorine Gas Cloud at Apartment Complex?

Chlorine Gas Cloud at Apartment Complex? Not at My Pool!

The responses I received did express sympathy in the devastating incidents, like the one that occurred at the Calypso Pool in Tampa, or the one at Pleasant Grove’s Veteran’s Memorial Pool. BUT… They were then followed with statements such as “This is why pools shouldn’t use Chlorine Gas.”, or “This doesn’t really affect us because we use liquid.”. The list of dismissing thoughts went on and on.

Misapprehensions could put your resident’s safety at risk

Apparently, as soon as people saw the word “Gas,” that became the focus and a reason to become indifferent. Not everyone, but enough to raise concern. You see, the majority, if not all of these chlorine gas cloud accidents did occur in pools that use sodium hypochlorite, or as we say in Florida “Liquid Chlorine.” When you have an automatic feeder for Liquid Chlorine Bleach and Muriatic Acid on your pool, the potential for danger exists if the correct precautionary measures are not in place.

Chlorine Gas Cloud at Apartment Complex Pool

Could this happen in the Pool at your Apartment Complex?

In these instances, the liquid chlorine bleach feeder and the muriatic acid feeder continued to operate and pump into the pool plumbing after the pool pump had shut off. Now, without the flow of water from the pool pump, these two chemicals would come in contact with one another. That’s how the gas was formed!

The first Chemical used in modern chemical warfare = Chlorine Gas

Liquid Chlorine and Muriatic acid form Chlorine Gas (or any other chlorine type and acid). The formation of gas in a dry pipe due to failure to interlock will force that cloud of gas into the pool through the return lines when operation resumes. Chlorine gas is heavier than air. So when introduced, the deadly green cloud hovers just above the surface of the water in the pool where the people are.

Liquid Chlorine Bleach users, or users of other chlorine-based compounds, Go Check This Now!

Electrically interlocking your pump and chemical feeders can prevent an incident like this from occurring at your facility. Most likely, your system has some level of interlock protection. Install chlorine and acid feeders correctly. Stop the introduction of Liquid chlorine bleach or another chlorine-based compound, when the pump shuts off. Electrically interlocking will shut everything down at the same time.

Chlorine Gas Cloud at Apartment Complex?

Here is the Update that I put together for the Water Quality & Health Council addressing the misconception that was published earlier this month Chlorine Gas Exposure Myth

To discuss this article with other readers, Visit our group at Talking Pools ?




Available Chlorine Content vs. Active Strength… Huh?

1913 interior of hypochlorite plant

Available Chlorine Content (ACC) is perhaps the most confusing concepts to grasp. The term was created as a means of comparing the bleaching and disinfecting power of the different chlorine compounds. Simplified, ACC is nothing more than a comparison of that specific chlorine type to chlorine gas and really does not have much to do with how much chlorine is in the bucket. This measurement applies to that chlorine type as a whole, meaning that all chlorine of that type is this strength (or within that specific range of strength) compared to Chlorine gas, which is always 100 percent. Confusing? If we want to know what amount of the chlorine type is actually in the bucket you are purchasing, we will need to look at the listed Percent of Active Strength.

If we were to look at standard chlorine tablets, trichloro-s-triazinetrione (Trichlor): Available in either granule or tablet form. The compound (C3Cl3N3O3) is 90% Available Chlorine. This means that Trichlor is 90% as strong as chlorine gas. This applies to ALL Trichlor, ALL Trichlor is 90% ACC (Available Chlorine Content). The 90% listed serving as a comparison of the compounds as explained above. The product is also listed as > 99% active strength. This means that greater than 99% of what is in the bucket is actually trichloro-s-triazinetrione, the amount of the active ingredient.

Nowadays, Chlorine tablets (Trichlor) are not typically manufactured using binders to hold the product together in tablet form.  High-pressure equipment presses the compound into shape; it is strictly a lot of psi used to maintain that tablet form. Back in the day this was not always the case and binders such as xanthan gum were utilized to allow the product to maintain its shape. Still, tablets are often falsely accused due to the “gummy” build up found in erosion feeders (automatic chlorinators) following use. This, however, is due to zinc stearate which is used during production as more of a lubricant to keep the tablets from sticking to the manufacturing press; not as an actual ingredient. Think of its use as more similar to the reason one would use Pam cooking spray in a skillet.

In a quasi-similar (but not exactly the same) example, Bacardi 151 was 75.5% alcohol by volume; 151 Proof. If a bartender was to make a rum and coke utilizing one shot of Bacardi 151 and another with two shots of 151, the strength of the active ingredient (Alcohol Proof) does not change, the rum is still 151 Proof. The only change was in the amount of the Bacardi product to Coca Cola.

The product itself; a stabilized compound: contains cyanuric acid (stabilizer). This is evidenced in the formula C3Cl3N3O3 , the Cl3 (3 atoms of chlorine) displacing H(3 atoms of hydrogen) in the cyanuric acid compound C3H3N3O3. Therefore, we do add more than just chlorine nonetheless. 15 oz. of trichlor (stabilized chlorine tablets/granular) will add 10 ppm of FAC to 10,000g, but it will also increase the CYA (Cyanuric Acid) by 6 ppm and the TDS by 10 ppm. The product itself is also acidic with a pH of 3.0 and will, when used for chlorination result in lowering pH. Trichloro-s-triazinetrione has an indefinite shelf life and, in storage, will never lose any of its ACC.

1910 portable emergency hypochlorite plant

Sodium Hypochlorite (NaClO) has a Trade% of 10 to 12 (Volume % Available Chlorine). The rest is simply saltwater (the inert ingredient). A gallon of sodium hypochlorite (containing 2.34 pounds of solids) will add 12 ppm of FAC (Free Available Chlorine) to 10,000 gallons of water and will increase the TDS by 28 ppm. Sodium Hypochlorite (liquid chlorine) has a very short shelf life and drops to 8% ACC within several weeks of manufacture (household bleach from the supermarket has a 6% ACC). Sodium Hypochlorite, despite popular belief, does not increase pH; (except possibly in instances where manufactured with excess lye) as is the same with other hypochlorites (Calcium Hypochlorite, Lithium Hypochlorite, etc).

Confusing Terms for Weight %, Trade % and Available Chlorine
Weight % Available Chlorine = Trade % ÷ Specific Gravity
Trade % = Weight % Available Chlorine × Specific Gravity
Weight % NaOCl (sodium hypochlorite) = Weight % Available Chlorine × (NaOCl grams/mole)/(Cl2 grams/mole)
Weight % Available Chlorine = Weight % NaOCl × (Cl2 grams/mole) / (NaOCl grams / mole)
Weight % NaOCl = (Trade % / Specific Gravity) × (NaOCl grams/mole) / (Cl2 grams/mole)
Weight % NaOCl = (12.5/1.16) × (74.442/70.906)
Weight % NaOCl = (10.7759) × (1.0499) = 11.3136
Trade % = Weight % NaOCl × Specific Gravity × (Cl2 g/mole) / (NaOCl grams/mole)
Trade % = 11.3136 × 1.16 × (70.906/74.442)
Trade % = 11.316 × 1.16 × (.9525)
Trade % = 12.50
NaOCl grams/mole = 74.442
Cl2 grams/mole = 70.906

Liquid bleach is usually a Weight % NaOCl in the ingredients on the label and sometimes (for Clorox, for example) lists the “% Available Chlorine.” Liquid pool chlorine is most often sold by Trade %. The Trade % is technically the Volume % Available Chlorine and therefore is the only quantity that exactly matches its number with ppm in the pool water as with 1 gallon in 10,000 gallons of 12.5% chlorinating liquid produces 12.5 ppm
free chlorine.

1912  interior machinery of hypochlorite plant

Calcium Hypo (Ca(ClO)2) has a 48 to 72% ACC and a corresponding Active Strength of 48 to 72%. The inert ingredient in Calhypo is calcium chloride. Calhypo (Calcium Hypochlorite) added at a rate of 20 oz. per 10,000g will add 10 ppm of FAC, but will also increase your Calcium Hardness by 8 ppm and your Total Dissolved Solids by 15 ppm. It will take roughly three years before Calcium hypochlorite begin to lose any of its ACC, and then it does so at an extremely slow rate. Calcium Hypochlorite, as explained above with all hypochlorites, does not increase pH. The increase in pH is only temporary (except as noted above with sodium hypochlorite) because the pH of hypochlorites is high. However, when chlorine is “used up” the process is acidic, bringing the pH back down to pretty much where it started.

To reiterate, using Trichlor as an example, at 90% ACC (Available Chlorine Content) and  > 99% active strength = greater than 99% of what is in the bucket is trichloro-s-triazinetrione, it’s just that the trichloro-s-triazinetrione in the bucket is only 90% as strong as chlorine gas.

Similar Article: That Chlorine Smell ?


Special thanks to Robert Lowry, chemical consultant and pool/spa water chemistry expert, for the peer review and contributions to this article.

Confusing Terms for Weight %, Trade % and Available ChlorinePage 128 © Copyright 2018 Lowry Consulting Group, LLC All rights reserved. Duplicated with permission, Pool Chemistry for Residential Pools

Photo Credit: Historic photographs  Minnesota Department of Health, R.N. Barr Library; Librarians Melissa Rethlefsen and Marie Jones


Liquid Chlorine Raises pH, or Does it?

Sodium Hypochlorite (NaOCl) is one of the more popular methods of chlorinating swimming pool water in both commercial and residential applications. When NaOCl (liquid chlorine) is added to water HOCl, Na+, and OH– is formed. However, what happens after the hypochlorous acid (HOCl) is used up (either due to UV from sunlight, or as the chlorine sanitizes and disinfects) is a common topic for debate among pool operators. Chemically, the HOCl becomes HCl (hydrochloric acid) in the process – no one is arguing this. The controversy is regarding whether the amount of acid (HCl) produced is enough to counter balance the initial increase in pH the dose had generated.

Photo Credit: A Grande Choice Pool & Spa, Inc in Englewood, FL

In my personal experience, swimming pools that I have maintained with sodium hypochlorite have recognized a drop in pH following the initial increase, ultimately realizing a net zero change. I did not have to add muriatic acid or CO2 to balance, which would support that the amount of HCl formed was in sufficient quantity to offset the initial increase in pH. Still, I have had lengthy conversations with others in the industry, pool operators I consider experts in their own right, whose opinions and experiences were polar opposite to mine.

I theorize that the experiences my peers are facing are caused by any and all things that could contribute to a change in pH in a swimming pool: greater levels of turbulence; Total Alkalinity; fill water chemistry; etc. Anything, that is, except the addition of liquid chlorine. With an open mind, I decided to reach out to a couple of the leading chemists/scientists in the industry to get their opinions. On my behalf, I was thinking I would end up with a paragraph and had the intention of a single article. What I received was greatly appreciated and so much more:

So, does sodium hypochlorite raise pH?

Richard Falk (AKA: Chem Geek)

 According to pool/spa water chemistry expert Richard Falk (AKA: Chem Geek), “When any hypochlorite source of chlorine is added to a pool, the pH rises because hypochlorite is high in pH.  However, when the added chlorine is consumed over time, this is an acidic process and pH drops back down close to where it started.  The only net pH rise from the hypochlorite addition comes from the “excess lye” in the product such as chlorinating liquid that is used for greater stability of that product.”

Richard went on to explain: Nevertheless, there is the observation that pH rises in pools using hypochlorite.  The reason is that the pH rise comes from other sources, primarily from the outgassing of carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide outgasses from pools causing the pH to rise with no change in Total Alkalinity (TA).  The reason is that swimming pools are intentionally over-carbonated in order to (ironically) provide pH buffering and to saturate the water with calcium carbonate in order to protect plaster surfaces.  The other main source of pH rise is the plaster itself as it continues to hydrate and cure though this is most noticeable in the first months to year of a new or re-plastered surface.  Vinyl pools do not show this effect but may still have carbon dioxide outgassing.

It is for this reason that covered vinyl pools tend to be the most stable with regard to pH when using hypochlorite sources of chlorine while uncovered plaster pools with greater sources of aeration such as fountains, waterfalls, spillovers, and higher bather-load with more vigorous splashing or movement have the pH rise the most.  Pools using saltwater chlorine generators tend to rise in pH not only because their generation of hydrogen gas bubbles aerates the water, but those with short pipe runs from the generator to the returns can also outgas some undissolved chlorine gas (the rate is low, but done over an extended period of time).  Pools not using CYA can also show greater net pH rise due to some chlorine (hypochlorous acid) outgassing.  Also, there are some lesser pathways to chlorine usage that result in some pH rise, such as chlorine oxidation of nitrogenous compounds to produce nitrate instead of nitrogen gas.

If there were no carbon dioxide outgassing nor hydration/curing (or dissolving of) plaster, then with 80 ppm TA the addition of 10 ppm FC either at once or cumulatively added would have the pH rise from 7.5 to 8.12, 20 ppm FC would rise to 8.55, 40 ppm FC would rise to 8.8.  When the chlorine is then consumed/used, the pH drops down to 7.52, 7.53, 7.57, respectively.

One can minimize the amount of pH rise from carbon dioxide outgassing by operating the pool at a lower TA level and higher pH target.  The following chart shows the relative amount of over-carbonation in the pool with respect to air at various TA and pH levels (with 30 ppm CYA since TA is increased some by the CYA level as a function of pH): 

 Relative CO2 Out-Of-Equilibrium at Various Levels of pH and Alkalinity
                              30 CYA, 550 TDS, 300 CH, 80oF
<————————————— pH ———————————————>
Total Alk. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 8.0
40 10.9 8.2 6.2 4.6 3.4 2.4 1.7 1.1 0.7 0.3 0.0
50 14.5 11.1 8.5 6.4 4.8 3.6 2.6 1.8 1.2 0.7 0.4
60 18.2 14.0 10.8 8.3 6.3 4.7 3.5 2.5 1.8 1.2 0.7
70 21.8 16.9 13.1 10.1 7.7 5.9 4.4 3.3 2.3 1.6 1.1
80 25.4 19.8 15.4 11.9 9.2 7.0 5.3 4.0 2.9 2.1 1.4
90 29.1 22.7 17.7 13.7 10.6 8.2 6.2 4.7 3.5 2.5 1.8
100 32.8 25.6 20.0 15.6 12.1 9.3 7.1 5.4 4.1 3.0 2.1
110 36.4 28.5 22.3 17.4 13.5 10.5 8.0 6.1 4.6 3.4 2.5
120 40.0 31.4 24.6 19.2 15.0 11.6 8.9 6.8 5.2 3.9 2.8
130 43.6 34.3 26.9 21.0 16.4 12.7 9.8 7.6 5.8 4.3 3.2
140 47.2 37.1 29.1 22.8 17.8 13.9 10.7 8.3 6.3 4.8 3.5
150 50.8 40.0 31.4 24.6 19.3 15.0 11.6 9.0 6.9 5.2 3.9
175 59.8 47.1 37.1 29.1 22.8 17.8 13.9 10.8 8.3 6.3 4.8
200 68.8 54.2 42.7 33.6 26.4 20.7 16.1 12.5 9.7 7.4 5.6
250 86.6 68.4 54.0 42.5 33.5 26.3 20.6 16.0 12.5 9.6 7.4
300 104.4 82.5 65.2 51.4 40.5 31.9 25.0 19.6 15.2 11.8 9.1
400 139.6 110.5 87.4 69.1 54.5 43.0 33.8 26.5 20.8 16.2 12.5
NOTE: A value of 0.0 means there is an equalibrium amount of carbon dioxide in the water and in the air so there is no Carbon Dioxide outgassing.
A value of 1.0 means there is twice as much Carbon Dioxide in the water compared to the equilibrium amount.
A value of 2.0 means there is three times as much Carbon Dioxide in the water compared to the equilibrium amount.
Check back with us on July 26th (2018) for the second half of this 2-Part series when we speak with chemical consultant, author, and pool/spa water chemistry expert Robert Lowry in our cleverly titled Sequel: “Does Liquid Chlorine Raise pH?

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