Major chlorine shortage set to ruin pool fun this summer
The worst chlorine shortage the country has ever seen is set to shake up swimming pool season this summer.
“It’s a concern for us,” said Cody Saliture, owner of Texas Pool Professionals, which has been in business for 17 years.
The Rockwall, Texas-based company serves 200 customers a week, and Saliture said it recently started stockpiling chlorine tablets. He also researched different chemicals to disinfect swimming pools and satisfy his customers.
“We’re looking for whatever we can get that we don’t have here in North Texas,” Saliture said. “We went to about six states and 15 cities [for supplies]. “
The chlorine shortage is widespread and will likely worsen – pushing chlorine prices even higher – as homeowners begin to prepare pools for the season. CNBC has spoken to pool industry insiders in several states – including Florida, Michigan, Nevada and Texas – about tight supplies, which are expected to blind pool owners, which are not in big way. part not aware of the problem.
A combination of factors led to the shortage, including an unprecedented increase in demand last year and a chemical plant fire, which destroyed some manufacturing capacity.
“We started buying early, really early and stocking as much as we could,” said Allan Curtis. “We probably won’t last longer than mid-May or the end of May, and we will be out of chlorine.”
His pool maintenance company, Ask the Pool Guy, serves 1,000 customers near Howell, Michigan. He has worked in the industry for 34 years and this is the first time he has stored chlorine.
“[I expect pool owners] will have to go from powdered chlorine tablets, powdered chlorine to liquid chlorine, liquid chlorine to non-chlorinated shock and the like, “Curtis said.” And I think that’s all going to literally run out. “
Aquatic Facility Training & Consultants CEO Rudy Stankowitz has worked in the industry for over 30 years and is the author of “How to get rid of pool algae. “
“I call it ‘Poolmageddon.’ It’s a chlorine crisis, ”said the Florida-based writer. “A lot of people won’t be able to find the chlorine tablets they need this season.”
Chlorine is used to prevent and kill algae. But more importantly, it also helps protect swimmers against water-borne illnesses such as cryptosporidium and legionella and against Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as brain-eating amoeba.
“Chlorine also helps prevent swimming pools from becoming a hotbed for mosquitoes and associated illnesses, as well as preventing dangerous conditions that could contribute to drowning – like cloudy water,” Stankowitz said.
According to Atlanta-based research firm Pkdata, there are 5.2 million residential in-ground swimming pools in the United States and 255,000 commercial swimming pools. The number of above ground pools is unknown.
Stankowitz estimated that 60% to 70% use chlorine tablets.
Last year the Coronavirus pandemic forced people to fall back and cancel travel plans. As more Americans stayed at home, demand for home improvements – especially backyard swimming pools – skyrocketed. This boom, experts say, has created even more demand for chlorine.
Then a manufacturing plant of one of the main suppliers of chlorine tablets in the country, BioLab, burned down last August, just after Hurricane Laura. The plant, located near Lake Charles, Louisiana, is expected to resume operations by spring 2022.
“We know how essential our products are for everyday families at home … that’s why we’re investing $ 170 million to rebuild our BioLab facility – to make it even bigger and better. When complete, the plant will operate with 30% more production capacity, ”said a spokesperson for BioLab’s parent company, KIK Consumer Products.
After the fire, only two domestic manufacturers of chlorine tablets remain: Western Oil and Clearon Corp.
A spokesperson for Occidental said the company is not commenting on the production. Clearon did not provide specific production targets.
“Clearon has made significant investments in both its people and production capacity to support the tectonic growth of our industry,” said Bryan Kitchen, its president and CEO, in an email.
According to financial services firm IHS Markit, chlorine prices are expected to rise 70% this summer compared to last year. However, in some parts of the country, the price of chlorine tablets has already doubled over the past year.
In Las Vegas, this is something Scotty Heer, owner of Scotty’s Pool Service, sees with his own eyes.
“Over the past 20 years, a typical 50-pound bucket of chlorine would cost between $ 75 and $ 85. Over the past year, it has grown to $ 140, with the proposed price of $ 158 in the near future.” , Heer said.
In some parts of the country, pool supply stores have placed quantity restrictions.
“Sometimes the parts stores are completely closed, other times there is a limit of one or two buckets – per company, per day – where we could buy an unlimited number. [amount],” he said.
There are alternatives. A saltwater swimming pool, for example, produces chlorine from salt by electrolysis. It does not replace chlorine, it makes its own.
Converting a chlorinated swimming pool system to a saltwater system worked well for Heer’s client Mallory Pracale.
“It’s better for us, for our skin, for our hair, for our pool, for the maintenance costs,” said Pracale.
Experts say converting to a salt system isn’t difficult – it involves a small unit and some electrical work – but they recommend hiring a licensed, insured professional to do it. The cost varies from market to market, but pool owners can expect to pay over $ 2,000.
Other systems such as UV and ozone will allow a pool owner to use less chlorine, but still need to maintain a minimum level.
According to Stankowitz, a homeowner could pay up to $ 20,000, depending on the market, to switch from a 10,000-gallon backyard pool to non-chlorine ozone treatment. But some ozone systems that work with chlorine can start at around $ 2,000.
Copper and silver ionization systems are another method of using less chlorine and are expected to cost around $ 2,000 or more.
Unfortunately, switching to a salt system like Pracale will not be easy this year. Experts say the swimming pool boom coupled with the need to replace pool equipment damaged by winter storms in Texas has made supply much more difficult.
According to Heer, “the only problem with converting to salt water – I would say right away, is getting your hands on a salt water system. [is] in high demand.”
While the chlorine shortage is expected to continue until next year, four pool experts offer the following advice:
- Make sure the water looks clean and clear before entering it. “If it’s a public pool, make sure it’s inspected by a city official,” Saliture said.
- Contact your local pool professional to discuss alternatives to chlorine. From saltwater and UV systems to mineral packs, there are alternatives. ” There are many [mineral pack] names there. And they have a mixture of minerals that you put in your water at the start of the swimming season. And they last all summer. They are very reasonably priced, generally less than $ 100. They remove algae and reduce the need for chlorine, ”Curtis said.
- Stay on top of your maintenance. “Remember that filtration and circulation of water play an important role in maintaining the health of swimming pools,” Stankowitz said.
- Shower before swimming and do not allow pets to enter the pool. “One dog in a pool is equivalent to 50 people swimming in that pool, in terms of the debris it brings to the water,” Curtis said. “The less imported oils, the less chlorine demand will be needed.”
– CNBC Ray parisi contributed to this report.