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Thread: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

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    If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    From reading this forum.., i am beginning to think that something like half the pools in the country must have some level of algae problem

    I have owned my pool for about 11 years - until this year, i never really paid any attention to the upkeep.

    The pool guy came once a week.., I had no idea what he was doing.., and we used the pool.

    we were not a high-usage family - my kids were away at camp or wherever most summers.

    I had chronic algae problems, at what i would call a low to moderate level - occasionally after a few days, a little algae would grow on the wall, so if I knew we would be using the pool later that day, i would brush and vacuum it in the morning. often i had to vacuum anyway to get rid of things that had blown into the pool.

    i never had green water - it usually wasn't crystal clear.., but it was usually pretty good.

    I have since learned that my CYA was over probably 100 for much of that time.., and my FC was being maintained at about 2 to 3ppm. I realize CYA has been increasing, but I probably never had the correct FC level for the CYA at any time since i bought the house!

    I guess what I have learned is that while the algae itself isn't that unhealthy, an environment in which algae can grow.., is also favorable for the growth of certain pathogens that can cause illness.

    it seems like at my CYA and FC levels.., I should have had a pretty toxic pool - yet to my knowledge, no one ever got sick

    i think my pool is a bit cool by TFP standards - averaging 79-81F, occasionally hitting 82, but never higher.

    This is not to imply that I am doing nothing about my algae problem - I am presently replacing water.., and will slam the pool when i get to a reasonable CYA level. I will probably buy a SWG, and fire the pool guy next year.

    still, i would bet that a huge fraction of the pools in america are under-chlorinated w.r.t. the CYA content.

    Is there any reliable information on how common pool-caused illnesses are?
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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    From what Ive read around the net, most pool pros blindly add this or that under the pretense that they are certified and have been taught to do it that way.. This chemical will drop or raise that level and it should all come out in the wash. Im sure they teach some chemistry in the classes but how much can you actually learn in a few days? What will sink in without proper field experience? If one doesn't know how chemicals respond to one another, how can you manage it properly? Then when someone questions their practices, they get defensive and the "Im a pro, I know it better than you" attitude comes out... Ive seen it quite a bit on these forums in stories about builders and maintainers. Unfortunately, a lot of the new build warranties will be void unless you do it their way... Catch 22...

    I agree that most pools are most likely under chlorinated due to warranty issues or owners just don't care and they let someone else do the work.. downward spiral until the pool boy cant quite get it right and they go searching google and wind up here. By then the levels are so out of whack, a drain and fill is imminent.

    Ive never looked up pool related illnesses but I would be willing to bet that most public splash pads and pools, while maintained "professionally", are well under recommended limits... If you've looked around TFP, a lot of us keep our pools at or just above the target FC levels and Im sure you've seen the results. You can actually smell how poorly maintained public pools are when you walk in... "that's how chlorinated pools are supposed to smell... Yeah..NO!! When I was slamming and took my FC above my slam level, the smell of chlorine was non existent. The smell comes from the CC's burning off. So if you smell that at a public place, you know there is or was something in the water.
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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    Think of it like swimming in one of the local lakes. That water isn't chlorinated nor is it filtered or free of algae. Most of the time you won't get sick from that water. Your pool is much the same but on a vastly smaller scale. The trouble with the smaller scale is that if anything harmful were to get introduced to your pool bacteria or virus wise you would have a problem almost instantly. Yes you are probably right that a huge portion of pools out there don't have enough FC to be considered sanitary. Myself being in CT with you a large portion of the issues on this forum are exaggerated by the differing geographic locations of he people here. Our seasons and rainfall in the northeast help prevent bad pool chemistry from really being a visible problem for most people. You have said you are used to dealing with light algae and less than clear water on a regular basis. You can deal with the work for the few months your pool is open then repeat the cycle. A lot of people treat their pools just like that. Is it wrong? No its your pool you can maintain it as you choose. Is it sanitary? No it's not sanitary. Will swimming in something not sanitary hurt you? Maybe it will maybe it won't. Will you blame the water in your pool for that cold you get a week or two after you went swimming? Again probably not because you put tabs in your pool and the pool stores tells you that's all you need to do for it to be safe.

    You are going thru the trouble of replacing your water give this method a chance for the rest of the season and see how you like it. I can tell you I spend less than 5 min every other day to keep my pool crystal clear and have only spent about $50 on 12.5% liquid chlorine for the season. The way the water feels when you swim in it is noticeably better than any other residential or hotel pool I've ever been in. The one other thing that is most important to me is I never smell chlorine when I swim after I swim or on any of the clothes or towels used around the pool. Using this method is the next best thing to having a clean spring fed fresh water lake in your back yard.

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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    I have been unhappy with the state of my pool since i owned it, and am therefore fully committed to solving the problem.

    on days when it's hot, and there is no breeze.., the "chlorine smell" near my pool is pretty bad - even sitting 15 feet from it.

    i was only trying to get an idea of what the real health risks are with under-chlorinated pools
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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    Not sure of the actual validity of these claims but it seems most stem from "toxic odors" around a pool.. ie... CC's... Properly sanitized and filtered, there are no CC's to burn off...
    http://gochemless.com/top-10-dangers...pool-chlorine/
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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    Quote Originally Posted by jgf310 View Post
    I have been unhappy with the state of my pool since i owned it, and am therefore fully committed to solving the problem.

    on days when it's hot, and there is no breeze.., the "chlorine smell" near my pool is pretty bad - even sitting 15 feet from it.

    i was only trying to get an idea of what the real health risks are with under-chlorinated pools
    Algae is not a pathogen per se, it is a nuisance. Algal-realted illnesses are rare and typically require a person to be immunocompromised in some way.

    The problem with under-chlorinated water is that it gives a chance for bacteria to grow. Bacteria are both free-floating (planktonic) and sessile (stationary). When bacteria become sessile, they typically form dense, impenetrable biofilms (look down your kitchen sink drain to see what I mean....). Once biofilms form, it is nearly impossible for chlorine to destroy them and the pathogens will have a perfect reservoir to live and reproduce in. Shocking a pool makes no difference to biofilms. As these biofilms form and grow, they become not only a reservoir of disease-causing pathogens but also add a constant chlorine demand to your pool water. It is not unreasonable to imagine that when a person inherits a green pool that hasn't been cared for in years, one of the contributing factors to prolonged SLAMs is the formation of biofilms in the pipe. While using a biofilm remover product like Ahh-some is not practical in large pools, it would likely be helpful in reducing chlorine demand.

    Another rare but incredible deadly pathogen are fresh water amoeba's in the genus of Naegleria (eg, Naegleria fowleri) that cause primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). This is a deadly amoeba infection of the brain that has a survival rate of less than 1%. See this recent thread - For those that swear by UV disinfection

    With that said, your pool sounds like most pools that are cared for by service companies - high CYA and just ramp up the chlorine every week. A typical "service" pool will have a CYA over 100ppm (usually about 150ppm or so) and they will typically shock the pool each time they show up to 15-20ppm FC. The high CYA reduces the loss of chlorine to sunlight to very low levels while the high FC/CYA ration (typically > 10%) gives them about 7 days worth of time before the FC drops dangerously low. The primary problem with this method is it will never be able to clear a pool with a viable algae load in it AND the high CYA moderates the active chlorine level (hypochlorous acid) to such a low value that oxidation of bather waste is very, very slow. This will normally lead to a higher background level of combined chlorine (CCs) of which monochloramine will be the primary constituent. Monochloramine is one of the CCs that gives chlorine pools that "nasty pool smell" that you describe and is an irritant to mucous membranes. The funny part is, monochloramine is also a decent algaecide, and so the high background levels of CCs probably contributes partly to holding the algae population at bay. Even so, there is no reason to expect a pool that only gets service once per week to be anything but cloudy and smelly.

    If you follow the methods laid out here on TFP, I have no doubt you will be incredibly surprised at how good your pool can look.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cj3737 View Post
    Not sure of the actual validity of these claims but it seems most stem from "toxic odors" around a pool.. ie... CC's... Properly sanitized and filtered, there are no CC's to burn off...
    http://gochemless.com/top-10-dangers...pool-chlorine/
    Absolutely nothing in that webpage is true for properly maintained pools and it is nothing more than self-serving click-bait by the proprietor of that website - Go ChemLess. Please do not post marketing nonsense that has no basis in scientific fact other than cutting & pasting unsupported claims!
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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    Person to Person transmission of disease is possible in a pool that is under-sanitized. Your neighbor brings her 5 year old over to swim and well....he's not yet mastered that talent of using toilet paper so well....and Bam!!.. 2 days later someone in your family complains that they have a "tummy bug". Would you even consider it came from the pool? Most won't.
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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    If our pool smelled like chlorine we would never have gotten past the first season with it. But aggressive pool storing of the water, especially in New England, keeps the water in decent enough shape. Now that we're on TFP we spend way less money, my wife (our chemist) spends way less time and our water is great... without any smell.

    I got snorkels and facemasks for myself and the kids because it's just so great down there.
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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    I can offer nothing but anecdotal information.

    I am sure the possibility of disease is pretty rare, but why expose everyone to the possibility?

    How inviting is it to swim in a slimy-walled, just a little cloudy pool? Many do and never know it can be better.

    How rewarding is it to swim in a properly managed TFP pool that has that diamond-like sparkle? You know it is there because you acquired the knowledge to "make it so", as Cpt. Picard would say.
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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    Quote Originally Posted by CJadamec View Post
    Think of it like swimming in one of the local lakes. That water isn't chlorinated nor is it filtered or free of algae. Most of the time you won't get sick from that water. Your pool is much the same but on a vastly smaller scale.........
    A swimming pool is nothing like a lake. A lake is a moving body of water. A lake has aquatic life filtering/eating bacteria & fresh replacement water fed from rivers, creeks & streams. People do get sick from swimming in dirty lakes. Right now as I type this many of my local beaches & State Parks are closed due to unhealthy water conditions.

    A pool is simply a stagnant body of water, and if it is not properly circulated and cared for, will turn into an algae laden bacteria infested swap.

    Algae in a pool is like the coal mine canary, a sign that something bad is happening.

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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    As a former WSI-T, I worked at the local Y for a summer lifeguarding and teaching. The water got "cloudy". I suggested closing the pool... They said teach or you are unemployed. So I taught.

    With the little kids I had to be in the water. I developed a "deep sinus infection" and was very, very sick. The infection was all the way down by the base of my neck. My internist, who had a specialty in infectious disease, said that he was 99% sure that I got it from that pool.

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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    FWIW, our Y has closed their pool when their test results were too far off. The water looked fine to me, but apparently the numbers were off. I'm sorry the one near you had an aquatics director with a different view.

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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    Yea, me too. What a fool.

    You can swim with a little algae, but not when a pool is unsanitary.

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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    The house next door to mine has a pool. My son and both their two kids have gotten ear infections from their water. She uses the once weekly shock process with a tablet in the skimmer. My other son, his girlfriend and I swim regularly in our TFP pool, no ear infections. Coincidence? I don't think so.....
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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    My wife is immunocomprimised (genetic thing) - She rarely gets sick at home, when using our pool. However, if we go on vacation she does become ill afterwards about 50% of the time. Is it from the airplane, the hotel room, or the resort pool? Who knows, but there is a pattern there. I have seen some downright nasty looking (to me) pools. Ones that look like dishwater.


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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    My 2 cents.
    This is my first year using TFP method and it has been awesome. Crystal clear water and unambiguous test results via Tft-100.
    My oldest used to get 'swimmers ear' anytime he swam in our little AGP without ear plugs. I mean every time. This is a common bacterial infection caused by unsanitary water.
    Now we have a bigger pool and TFP wisdom and he has been swimming almost daily for 2 months without ear plugs and no ear infections. Coincidence? I think not.


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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    Quote Originally Posted by parrym View Post
    My 2 cents.
    This is my first year using TFP method and it has been awesome. Crystal clear water and unambiguous test results via Tft-100.
    My oldest used to get 'swimmers ear' anytime he swam in our little AGP without ear plugs. I mean every time. This is a common bacterial infection caused by unsanitary water.
    Now we have a bigger pool and TFP wisdom and he has been swimming almost daily for 2 months without ear plugs and no ear infections. Coincidence? I think not.


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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    We were visiting my sister last week. She has a pool boy and SWG. She has no idea how what her chemical levels are. Her water was a brand new fill two weeks old when we were there. She had a bit of sparkle but not like ours. My kids wouldn't even consider going in. They said her water looked dirty. I remember a time when they couldn't wait to swim in her pool.
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    Re: If algae is this common in pools, how bad can it be?

    Took the kids to swim in one of the local lakes last night.
    Could only see down about 12" before it got too cloudy.
    All I could think of was 'how much chlorine for a 3T gallon lake'?
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