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Pool Plight in a Pandemic

I have written before about some of the challenges our pool has presented to me over the more than 20 years that I have been our year-round “pool boy”—year-round because we choose to keep our pool open the entire year.  Looking back over my old photos, I can always tell a year when the pool frustrated me the most because I will have photos of it turned green (from algae, not for St. Patrick’s Day) or flooded by tremendous rainstorms.  In 2018, we had a mustard algae bloom (a dreaded variety for pool owners) that in fact made the pool look like I had died it green.

Surprisingly, looking back at 2020 when the pandemic began, last year was a relatively easy year for me and our granddaughter enjoyed numerous swims with my wife.

But that all changed in 2021 when shortages began to crop up.

First was a shortage of chlorine tablets which was not only a result of the pandemic, but also a fire and explosion at one of the main plants that produces the chlorine for the tablets.  Fortunately, last year I bought a big bucket at the end of the season, so this did not impact me until well into the summer.

Next came a shortage of muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid for you non-scientist types out there that might not recognize the connection to the plant explosion) which as any pool owner knows, you use several gallons of it over the season to bring the pH of the pool down.  There are more expensive alternatives available but again fortunately, I had bought two gallons at the end of last year.

Our pool went into a deep freeze early this year when we had almost record setting snows and low temperatures for Memphis.  But by June, the pool temperature was warm enough for our newest grandson to get his inaugural swim in Mimi’s pool.

Later in June, I first heard about the chlorine shortage and so began to use my chlorine tablets more sparingly.  Unfortunately, I became too frugal while out of town and came home to another green pool.

Little did I know last year how fortunate it was that I had loaded up on chemicals at the end of the season by buying extra turbo shock as well.  After shocking the pool, I was able to get it looking good again in about four days.

But then I began to notice a little algae growth each morning when I went out to look at the pool.  I could brush it and get rid of it but the next day it would be right back.  Having just been able to buy one of the last buckets of chlorine tablets, I bumped up the number of tablets to increase the chlorine level.  However, even when I bumped up the chlorine level to more than twice the upper end of the recommended range (still safe), I still had daily algae blooms (which should not happen).

I realized I was not dealing with your average run of the mill algae and after double and triple shocking without much effect, I was convinced I had mustard algae again.

When I went to the pool store, I learned that many people had been having the same issue and I fortunately managed to snag the last two pouches of special treatment just for this type (argh, another shortage).

The interesting thing about this chemical is it turns your pool water white making it look like your filled up the pool with milk (Got Milk?).  This is the pool after being treated in 2018…

…and again, this year confirming the culprit.

Mustard alga is so hard to get rid of that you have to throw everything that has been in contact with the water into the pool during the treatment as the algae can survive outside the pool (nasty stuff).  That is why the vacuum hose, long pole and all the pool toys are enjoying the treatment as well.  It normally takes a few days for the dead algae to fall out and sink to the pool bottom.  We were just about to head out of town, so I left the pool looking like this 48-hours after treating it.

When we returned, the pool water was crystal clear, but I had a huge amount of dead white algae on the bottom.  It took a couple of times of vacuuming before our pool finally looked this good at which point, I also had to clean the filters.

Since with this type of dead alae, you have to vacuum to waste I dramatically diluted down my chemicals having to add extra water to replace what I vacuumed out.  So, the day I went to get water tested again to see what chemicals I needed to add, I experienced another shortage.

The pool store had just run out of the spin disks they use to perform a multitude of chemical tests on your water sample and had no idea when any would be available.  They did offer a limited “dip stick” test which is much less precise, difficult to judge by the slight color variations from one reading to another (e.g., Alkalinity of 40 versus 80) and only covers a few parameters.

So, one more pool supply shortage to deal with.  But at least, I am rid of that bad mustard alga and with a stock of tablets, I can hopefully keep our pool in good swimming shape for the rest of the season.  But next year, for the first time in many years, I am seriously considering hiring a pool company to take care of our pool.  That way I can sit here and enjoy the pool instead of being on the front line of pool cleaning and maintenance.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

4 thoughts on “Pool Plight in a Pandemic Leave a comment

  1. Wow! What an ordeal! While I can see the appeal of your own private pool, this post makes me appreciate our subdivision’s pools. I do wonder what causes the mustard algae. In any case, I would at least price the cost of a professional pool company. Then, whatever the cost, I would rationalize it. Hope your family is enjoying the pool!

  2. Wow, a shortage I didn’t know about! How unfortunate that the fire made it worse. I hope things get back to normal or that a pool company can take over! You’ve worked SO hard on this for so long. Maybe it’s time to put your feet up and relax. 🙂

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