Metals are naturally existing elements found in every place; in water, soil and stones. Metals in soil and stones dissolve in acidic rainwater, which is then carried to surface water and groundwater. Through this, the dissolved metals find their way to pools and tubs when filled. Exposure of metals to water cause staining on pool surfaces and equipment. This article discusses the techniques to control the presence of pool metals. It also discusses the different kinds of metal staining and the relevant chemicals to eliminate and hinder stains.
Metals in pools and hot tub water
There are 91 existing metals, but only 6 are problematic to hot tubs and pools. The 6 metals include magnesium, copper, cobalt, iron, manganese and calcium. Here we will only discuss 4 that are cobalt, copper, magnesium and iron.
Fill water, inclusive of almost all municipal and well water supplies that fill hot tubs and pools, contains a few metals. It is advisable to test for metal concentration in source water before filling the hot tubs and pools.
Tests for iron and copper are easily accessible, though the majority only measures the free form of the dissolved metals. They also do not test the sequestered and complexed forms of dissolved metals. A two-phase metal test containing adequate reducing and releasing agents give better results on free, complexed and some oxidized metals.
Sources of metal contamination in the pool and hot tub water are plaster and pebble surfaces, water features, decking materials, metal equipment, galvanic corrosion, chemicals and runoff.
In addition, flagstone, marble and stone contain iron that leaches into the pool after every rainfall. Imbalanced water may cause the introduction of copper from heat exchangers found in gas-fired water heaters. Moreover, copper-based algaecides and mineral-based water treatment may be a source of pool metals. Plant fertilizers can also introduce metals when incorrectly applied or due to uncontrolled flooding. More sources of metal include irrigation methods with well water.
Avoid using untreated water with high metal concentration (higher than 1ppm) in hot tubs or pool. Treat the water when the metal concentration is higher than 0.2 ppm. Sediment filters (10 microns or less) eliminate the majority of the bigger oxidized particles. Use filters that have metal adsorbents to treat water, to minimize dissolved metals concentration.
Primary Sanitizers and Stabilizers
Maintain proper concentration of primary sanitizers and other similar stabilizers to prevent organic contaminants. These include; pathogens, non-hazardous bacteria and algae minimizing the need for a copper-based algaecide.
Bonding of Metals and Water
The majority of the pool and hot tub equipment are metal-made. For example, electrolytic halogen generators, the heating core of electric heat pump, gas-fired pool and hot tub heaters, ladders, light rings and handrails.
To enhance chemical and electrical safety, install a bonding system in the hot tub or pool. The bonding system involves joining the copper wire with all the metal elements and water combined. This minimizes electric potential difference. Lack of this system, enables dissolution of pool metals, causing staining that damages the equipment. This is the process known as galvanic corrosion and can heighten due to several factors such as salt water, stray direct current as well as its power supplies. Anodes (zinc metal) reduce the damage on the equipment but don’t deal with the cause of corrosion. Test the bonding system every year, or any other time there is corrosion.
Pool & Hot Tub pH
pH is the most vital yet most ignored factor in preventing metal release in water. Low pH water (below 7) is acidic and corrosive. Acidic water dissolves metals from the pool equipment.
Improper water chemistry harms pool surfaces and machinery. Always ensure to maintain an accurate pH, alkalinity (carbonate) and calcium (hardness). If inadequate, water draws carbonate and calcium from cementitious surfaces, discharging metals into the water.
Sequestering agents join with the dissolved pool metals to reduce oxidation hence reduces staining. They chelate the metals, not eliminate them. They require a complex modern ultra filtration system to remove sequestered metal particles as the particles are too small for the pool filtration system. Add this agent on a regular basis, as a secondary disinfection and primary sanitizer systems keep on destroying them.
Ways to reduce metal concentration in hot tubs and pool water
- Bind the metals using polymer and water-insoluble natural adsorbents
- Filter the water through a reverse osmosis system
- Remove and replace a part of the water with fresh metal-free water
Removing stains from the pool and hot tub surfaces
1. Metal stain removal from the surface
2. Chelation of the dissolved metals in the water with a sequestering agent
3. Elimination of the metals from the water.
To get rid of metal pool stains, add oxalic acid, ascorbic acid and citric acid or a similar product into the pool water. An experienced pool service expert should only execute the use of Muriatic acid in the removal of metal stains as it can lead to permanent damage to the pool surface. Chelation of dissolved metals and minimizing concentrations of dissolved metal have been earlier tackled.
Figuring out the difference between metal stains and those by organic contamination can be difficult. For evaluation, establish the origin of the stain, asses the water chemistry and test the stain with either citric acid or ascorbic acid.
Note: Some organic stains, similar to those brought about by iron bacteria, vanish after treatment with ascorbic acid but return with the introduction of chlorine residuals.
BioLab Plant Reopening Will Impact Chlorine Prices for 2023
The news of BioLab’s plant burning to the ground during Hurricane Laura in 2020 had a ripple effect on chlorine prices that has lasted for the past two years. We first reported that BioLab was rebuilding the plant back in July of 2021. A recent announcement that construction is completed and in time for summer production has pool industry analysts optimistic. “We are delighted to reopen our BioLab facility in time to support the 2023 pool season,” said Michael Sload, CEO of KIK Consumer Products.
BioLab is the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of dry chlorine products. An announcement that the Westlake, Louisiana facility is fully operational means that one of the driving factors for the initial spike we saw on the price of chlorine has been removed. Prices for dry chlorine products soared in 2021 due to concerns about shortages and remained high through the summer of 2022.
Understanding The Correlation Between BioLab & Price Increases
The conditions for a sudden surge in the price for chlorine stemmed partly from the fact that BioLab was out of commission. The main factor that was driving prices to explode during the past two years was largely due to the pandemic in general.
A large percentage of the population was quarantined, which meant more people than ever before, were at home and using their swimming pool. This put a much higher glut on demand than anticipated. With the pandemic shutting many plants down, and logistical delays plaguing distributors throughout most of 2021, these conditions as well as rising inflation in 2022 kept prices high through the summer.
The reopening of the BioLab facility will certainly impact the supply chain in a positive way. “BioLab will be actively supplying the pool market for the 2023 season which should provide some relief,” said plant manager Donald Brunette.
Prices are predicted to begin dropping a bit in light of that fact but will certainly not sink lower than they were prior to the pandemic. As the population starts to adjust to a post-Covid world, the surge we saw for swimming pools has already begun to recalibrate to pre-pandemic levels. The only remaining catalyst for keeping chlorine prices from truly resetting back to 2020 is the cumulative rate of inflation is roughly 14.7% higher than in 2020.
While this should certainly factor into the equation, most experts agree that with this news, the chlorine shortage is finally over and a bucket of chlorine tablets should cost substantially less next summer than it has in previous years. This comes as welcome news for both consumers and pool professionals.
Ultimate Water Taps Jeff Jones for Sales of Chlorine Genie
Ultimate Water, whose flagship product is the Chlorine Genie, is pleased to announce the addition of industry veteran Jeff Jones as the new Regional Sales Manager and Buying Group Liaison for the company’s residential and commercial divisions. Based out of Texas, Jones has been in the swimming pool industry for over 40 years spanning a broad range of roles including the VP of Sales for DEL Ozone, National Sales Manager for Letro Products, as well as work in construction management and sales for Blue Haven and Riverbend Pools. Most recently Jones managed buying group sales for Florida Water Products.
“We are very pleased to have Jeff join our team,” says Thomas Vessiere, National Sales Director for Ultimate Water. “Jeff brings deep experience, industry knowledge, and strong relationships that will be especially helpful as the demand for the Chlorine Genie grows exponentially in our industry.”
Having sold and designed pool water sanitation systems for many years, Jones is very enthusiastic about being a part of the growing success of the Chlorine Genie. “The design and functionality of the Chlorine Genie makes it an ideal product for our industry and is especially welcome right now as builders, retailers and service professionals grapple with the most efficient way to continuously produce chlorine safely, cost effectively and immediately for their customers,” explains Jones.
Jones will be at the AQUALive Show booth # 416 and can be reached directly at [email protected] or by calling 214-415-2510.
More information about the Chlorine Genie can be found at:
San Diego, CA
A Borates Shortage is Looming on The Horizon
One of the specialty chemicals being talked about a lot in light of the chlorine shortages and rising prices are borates. As strong proponents of borates, it troubles us to say that our go-to sanitzer supplement may soon be facing the same shortages and rising costs that we’ve been seeing on the trichlor side.
What The Boron Shortage Means For The Pool Industry
If you’re in the pool business you already know, borates are becoming increasingly difficult to find. What inventory is available is vastly more expensive than in previous years. We’re already knee-deep into the dog days of summer and prices for chlorine have skyrocketed well past analysts’ projections.
A lot of pool service professionals have been turning to borates as the savior during this time of inflation and rising prices. Many technicians already use borates as a buffer against upwards shifting pH. When your pH level rises above what is deemed “normal” (about 7.8), using borates achieves optimum results.
Why Pool Professionals Are Turning To Borates
Bacteria can thrive in water with a high pH level. When this happens it makes chlorine less effective. Pool professionals use borates to alleviate the issue, because it works to keep pH from drifting upward. In addition, there are other positive aspects to using borates in your pool. For one, it keeps the pool clear of algae and calcium scaling. Pool equipment repair specialists will be the first ones to recommend borates. When it comes to maintaining ideal water chemistry for your pool equipment, borates does an amazing job.
For the past few years, the adoption of borates by pool pros has steadily increased season after season. The concern now is that we may have hit maximum capacity as demand has increased well beyond available inventory.
Dwindling Boron Supplies Driving Prices Higher
The global boron market shortage is driving prices higher this season. For those who’ve been thinking of switching to using borates, this definitely is something to consider. When it comes to getting trichlor at affordable rates, it already feels that pool pros are a lower priority as far as it goes to maintaining pricing structures. Now, it appears the same thing has begun happening with borates.
Although borates and boric acid are near synonymous with pools, the swimming pool industry itself is actually a lower priority in terms of its consumption of boron. The industrial glass industry is the largest consumer of boron, roughly 48%, followed by the ceramics industry (15%) and agricultural industry (15%); the cleaning industry of which the pool industry represents a fraction consumes roughly 2% of the world’s boron.
You’ll find boron in everything from industrial fertilizers to high-end ceramics and solar panels. Boron also has medical applications which improve wound healing and boosts the body’s usage of estrogen, testosterone, and vitamin D. It improves magnesium absorption, reduces inflammation, increases antioxidants, and boosts brain electrical activity in both cognitive performance as well as short-term memory.
What is absolutely certain is that we (the pool industry) didn’t cause a borates shortage. Clearly, demand is higher in these other industries which are causing prices to surge. Right now the boron supply chain is very weak. Over 60% of the material comes from mines located in Turkey which is the top producer, followed by Russia, South America and the United States.
For the time being, production is gradually declining. As existing boron reserves deplete, we’re seeing demand far exceed supplies, resulting in higher prices such as $1,250 per ton, far exceeding analysts’ predictions for $739 per ton.
While the demand in the U.S. by pool professionals may be high, the top consumer of boron is China, followed by India and Japan. Boron is produced domestically only in the State of California and it appears very little of it is earmarked towards maintaining supply chains for borates.
The story isn’t all doom and gloom for pool professionals who want to switch to borates. Fortunately, folks like Natural Chemistry, Brenntag, and others are still intent on keeping inventory on the shelves so you should still be able to find their products through distribution. If they don’t have borates available, demand that they replenish their stock. This may be the only way to guarantee the pool industry remains a priority at all.
Listen to our entire discussion on the Talking Pools podcast.
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