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Cleaning Pools After a Wildfire

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Cleaning a Pool After a Wildfire

The recent fires significantly affected the pool industry. After this sad ordeal, pool experts discovered better ways to prevent and deal with such unexpected situations. As a pool owner, it is essential to do your best to protect yourself from such unfortunate circumstances. But first, you have to take time to analyze the problem.

Protecting yourself from the fire

Pool professionals should also carry protective clothing and equipment at all times. For instance, they should carry gloves and respiratory masks at all times. An inflammable blanket and safety flares also help pool operators handle emergencies.

Wildfires undoubtedly interfere with the quality and pressure of water. Contrary to popular belief, a hose is not always effective in the case of a wildfire. More often than not, fire brigades use pumps to source water from the pool to protect your home. Therefore, pool owners should consider buying pumps for these specific pumps. Such pumps usually facilitate a water flow of 150 gallons per minute. Subsequently, they are effective in soaking down your home.

Cleaning a Pool After a Wildfire

What you should do in the event of a fire

In the occurrence of a wildfire, the first thing to do is ensure everyone around the area is safe. Then, attend to your property once everyone around the site leaves. Working with the emergency department in your local area would be best if you experience a fire.

It is always dangerous for pool companies to try saving pools by going past an emergency barrier. Remember, fire can travel to any side when there is a strong wind. Create multiple escape routes in the property to keep everyone safe.

Avoid areas of heavy smoke where emergency crews are still set up. If there are wild animals in your area, do not try to handle them on your own when they come to your property looking for shelter. In such a situation, try contacting your nearest wildlife management authorities. Ultimately, be very careful when you have active wildfires going on in the area, this holds especially true for pool professionals.

If it’s your home that is in immediate jeopardy – evacuate as quickly as possible and worry about the pool and house later. If you have ample notice that the fire may be headed in your direction, you may have time to prepare your property using some of the suggestions outlined at the end of this article.

Dealing with the aftermath of the fire

What happens after a wildfire? Large fires make pools dirty. Your pool is likely to have leaves, smoke, ash, and branches after the fire. Also, fire extinguishing chemicals may still be present in the pool. These substances can adversely affect the pool filter. Also, a dirty pool is likely to attract extensive breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Pool owners should take time preparing their pool for a wildfire as well as time cleaning it after one.

The air quality itself is something that pool companies should focus on while out servicing pools after a wildfire. Cole Daasnes owner of Poseidon Pool Service said he limits the exposure his employees have to heavy smoke when the air quality is very poor. He said that they take care of their service technicians first and foremost. “The AQI (air quality index) is their standard on monitoring the air quality for the safety and well-being of the staff, once it reaches an ‘unhealthy’ status at 150 we limit our service to chem basket service only to minimize their exposure.” Consequently, when the air quality is very poor, homeowners should expect abbreviated service from many of the local service providers.

Usually, it is advisable to employ a pool service expert when it comes to cleaning pools after a fire but again, plan ahead and ask whatever pool contractor you hire if they are offering full service at that time. Also, note that you should take your own time before coming back to the site of the fire. Ensure you identify the cause of the fire and deal with it appropriately before revisiting your property again. Once you’ve ascertained that it’s safe – now is when you can begin to start worrying about the pool. The first thing though is to avoid running your pool pump before checking whether everything is okay; a pool contractor can help you handle this job effectively.

Ash in the swimming pool can contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to your pool. Photo Credit: Brad Rittiman

Effects of ash in the swimming pool

Typically, expect a lot of ash in your pool after a fire. A build-up of ash on the pool filter can lead to an almost limestone cement type of coating on the filtering equipment. Ash coming from buildings also contains toxic substances like lead that can pose a danger to your health. Additionally, it is essential to note that ash repels water. Thus, it is tough to get rid of ash in the pool. Enzyme-based products are the best for removing ash.

Do fire-fighting suppressants affect the quality of pool water after a fire?

As mentioned earlier, one of the substances you are most likely to find in pools after a fire are fire suppressant chemicals. According to experts like Orenda Technologies who’ve seen their fair share of wildfires over the years, flame retardants can be up to 10% fertilizer. Many of these fire suppressants contain di-ammonium phosphate. The presence of phosphate in the swimming pool significantly lowers the quality of water. Also, phosphate reacts with calcium to form calcium phosphate, which reduces the efficiency of pool heaters.

Do fire-fighting suppressants affect the quality of pool water after a fire?
Photo Credit: National Interagency Fire Center

According to Jeffery Johnston of Quality Clear Pools, the flame retardant that is dropped from the air is called PHOS-CHEK Fortify. The brand name Phos-Chek stems from it’s active ingredient, ammonium phosphate (made of 85% water, 10% fertilizer and 5% minor ingredients). Key words here are phosphate and fertilizer. “When these two elements enter the air and find their way into your pool, it puts a very high sanitizer (chlorine) demand on your pool, AKA food for algae.” said Johnston.

Tips for Cleaning a Pool After a Wildfire

  • Remove debris as quickly as possible.
  • Brush the entire pool surface completely.
  • Skim debris from the pool with a net.
  • Check that your pool filter is clean and functioning properly.
  • Do an inspection of all of your pool equipment.
  • Use a quality chlorine-free oxidizer to super-chlorinate your swimming pool to 20 parts per million (ppm).
  • Use a water clarifier to assist in clearing ash from the pool filter.
  • Enzyme products can also assist in breaking down non-organic matter that cannot easily be filtered.
  • Once your chlorine level falls lower than 5 ppm, test it again and treat with phosphate remover if necessary.
  • Mineral algaecides such as PoolRx can can also help cut down the time & chemicals needed to bring the pool back to life.
  • Backwash the filter if necessary throughout this process.
A sparkling blue pool can quickly turn into a disgusting mess of ash & debris after a wildfire.
A sparkling blue pool can quickly turn into a disgusting mess of ash & debris after a wildfire.

What if it’s too far gone?

Sometimes the best way of cleaning a truly filthy pool after a fire is just to empty them, refill and start over. It’s definitely a final remedy but doing this will help you avoid all the hassle involved in cleaning the pool. Besides, the toxins found in the water can really do a number and damage the pool equipment if you don’t have the patience or proper resources to clean it right. Moreover, these substances are likely to lead to unbalanced water chemistry. Still, with that said – draining the pool should be the last stop on the bus. Try some of the tips above before you give up and do a refill.

Is your property near the fire scene?

If the wildfire happened near you and your property was not at risk of damage, there are several things you need to do as a pool owner in order to prepare. Ultimately, pool owners should do their best to safeguard their pools from fires. During a wildfire, cover your pool with a safety cover if possible. You can use sandbags to hold the cover in place to try and prevent anything from getting into the pool. Make sure to inspect the pool for damage after the fire and then clean out the pool and make all repairs as soon as possible.Ensure you clean the pool using the right equipment. Check to see whether all pool equipment is in good shape. Also, oxidize the pool by conducting a pool shock. Hopefully, your property is undamaged and if you follow all of these steps bringing your pool back to crystal blue should be a snap.

Featured Photo Credit: Pool Chemistry Institute

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Pool News coverage brought to you by Pool Magazine's own Marcus Packer. Marcus Packer is a 20 year pool industry veteran pool builder and pool service technician. In addition to being a swimming pool professional, Marcus has been a writer and long time contributor for Newsweek Magazine's home improvement section and more recently for Florida Travel + Life. Have a story idea or tip you'd like to share with Pool Magazine? Email [email protected] your story idea.

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Cleaning and Service Equipment and Supplies

BioLab Plant Reopening Will Impact Chlorine Prices for 2023

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BioLab Plant in Westlake, LA - 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.

BioLab ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the reopening of the Westlake, LA facility.

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.

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Ultimate Water Taps Jeff Jones for Sales of Chlorine Genie

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Jeff Jones

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:

www.chlorinegenie.com

San Diego, CA

(800) 970-7616

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A Borates Shortage is Looming on The Horizon

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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.

Pool service professionals have been turning to borates in a time of rising prices for sanitizers like trichlor.

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.

Boron is in high demand. There are a myriad of applications for it aside from pool cleaning.

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.

Final Thoughts

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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