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Thread: Lawn Service and phosphate levels

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    Lawn Service and phosphate levels

    Hi all - I own a lawn service company in Central Pa (and I'm a pool owner). This year we've had many calls regarding " you got fertilizer in my pool and now my Phosphate level is off the chart"

    They ALL come from one pool company that is - in my opinion - too lazy to dig into their customers problem and really HELP them. They just generically blame us and sell them $600 worth of stuff.

    The funny thing is that the Fertilizer we use contains NO PHOSPHORUS! its a 24-0-11 or 30-0-10 analysis for example

    Can you give me some education on this? What else could cause a spike in P levels?
    My guys are VERY careful to keep products out of pools and even if a couple granules were to get in a pool it would be a parts per billion change.

    I'm getting tired of fielding complaints because one guy uses a broad brush to paint with - I suspect they just want to sell more Chems to their customer
    Thanx
    M

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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Lawn Service and phosphate lavels

    Phosphates are algae food. One strategy, strongly pushed by some pool stores/companies, is to eliminate the phosphates in order to prevent algae growth. Eliminating phosphates does stop algae growth, but so does chlorine, even when phosphates are abundant. You have to have chlorine anyway (or some other sanitizer), and it is generally much less expensive to maintain proper chlorine levels than it is to remove all the phosphates. Around here we don't believe it is worth the expense and hassle to remove all of the phosphates except in a few very rare and unusual situations.

    Some areas have significant phosphate levels in their tap water, which makes removing phosphates from the pool very difficult, and very profitiable for the company selling the phosphate remover.

    Nitrogen compounds in fertilizer are usually a more serious problem in swimming pools than phosphates, though it is fairly rare that a nitrogen problem is correctly diagnosed.

    This past year we have heard of nearly every kind of pool problem being blamed on phosphates, including a wide range of problems that removing the phosphates wouldn't help at all. At least one of the major pool store chains has been heavily promoting phosphate removers, with little regard for their true usefulness. Phosphate removers can be a major profit item for the pool store, so there is very little motivation for them to be honest.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

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    Re: Lawn Service and phosphate lavels

    Thanx for the reply
    What can I do to de-throne this knucklehead! I have read - on this forum, prolly by you - that phosphate testing and removal is one of the biggest scams in the industry. I'm really close to paying him a personal visit - he won't like that.

    How much Nitrogen Fert in a pool is REALLY needed to screw up the water Chemistry? Does the fact that my Fert contains ZERO Phos. play into this and make it a black / white situation. (how can I cause Phos to increase when.. 1)- I don't use it and 2)- we didn't get it in the pool!)

    Should I get a sample of my customer's water - I believe she is on a well, not municipal water.
    My Cust is getting ready to have the same Company close her pool for her - I'd like to get this straightened out prior to that...at least get her educated on the whole scam issue. She sez her pool looks like milk - I would NOT close mine if it looked like that. Maybe the pool guy is just setting her up for a VERY EXPENSIVE opening in '09?

    I really appreciate the input - this forum has been great for me personally - see my June '08 posts WRT my Autopilot SWG. You guys are GREAT!!
    M

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    Re: Lawn Service and phosphate lavels

    One way that fertilizer can get into a pool is if it gets on the deck and then someone uses a leaf blower to clean up and accidentally blows some of the fertilizer into the pool. The 24-0-11 (24% Nitrogen- 0%Phosphorus- 11%Potassium) and 30-0-10 do not seem to contain any phosphorus. I believe that the Nitrogen is provided as Ammonium sulfate (ammonia and sulfuric acid), which could form chloramines and lower pH.

    You could contact the customer and let them know that your fertilizer does not contain phosphorus. Municipalities sometimes add phosphates into the water for corrosion control. You could get a sample of the pool water and the fill water and have them independently tested. Have the pool and fill water tested for all chemicals, chlorine, pH, alkalinity, calcium, cyanuric acid, ammonia and phosphates. If the customer's water looks like "milk" then it's likely that the chemicals are way off. If you can show the customer what's really wrong with their pool that could help prove your case.

    Possibly the service company is just incompetent and is using you as a convenient excuse. You should contact the pool service company and work this out with them. Ask them why they are telling people that their pool problems are your fault. Perhaps they really believe that it is your fault. Perhaps they just need a little education.

    Three questions:

    1) How does your service apply the fertilizer?
    2) Does any ever get on the deck or in the pool?
    3) Is there any reason that you don't use fertilizers with at least some phosphorus?

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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Lawn Service and phosphate lavels

    It probably takes 0.5 ppm of nitrogen compounds to have a noticeable effect and at least 2 ppm of nitrogen compounds before anything too serious happens. The solution to excess nitrogen compounds is to use extra chlorine, but the amount of extra chlorine required grows very quickly and can quickly get out of hand.

    Convincing the homeowner that it isn't your problem is tricky because it is much more of an emotional issue than a factual issue. The fact that there isn't any phosphorus in your fertilizer is a very strong rational argument, but many people will ignore that and just see it as your word against the the pool service's word.

    Common causes for milky water include dead algae, fine calcium dust, and phosphate remover. Clouding from dead algae and phosphate remover will clear eventually, probably several days, if the filter is working. But fine calcium dust can often go right through the filter and require chemical adjustments to get the calcium to dissolve.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

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    Re: Lawn Service and phosphate lavels

    thanx again for the quick replys -

    I visited the customer and pool today. Turns out, we don't even treat their back lawn areas so it is absolutely impossible that ANY product made its way into their pool. I know these people personally and have treated their lawn(s) for years - nothing like this has happened in the past and they are 'pretty' understanding of the FACT that we had nothing to do with it. They are just frustrated by spending SOOO much money and still having cloudy water. I have a call into our national staff agronomist (also a pool owner) for some more insight - Its taking all I have to NOT go to the pool 'Professional' and bust some heads.

    #9 - we use granular fertilizers and ALWAYS blow off walks, drives when done. we try to avoid P in our Fert coz there is big push to keep it out of the Chesapeake Bay - algae growth etc. Phos. is more important in a starter Fert than in a product for an established lawn.

    If I were to put the effort into educating these people - pool company - how would I go about it. The 'machine' that reads water samples is supplied by the Chem Co. and the printout sez how much of THEIR product to buy. I guarantee ALL their training in water chemistry came from the salesman!! What a racket!!

    Anyone else care to comment here?

    M

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    Re: Lawn Service and phosphate lavels

    I would start by contacting the owner of the pool service company and just bringing up the issues that you are concerned about. Ask them to explain to you what their position is and why they think that you might be at fault. It sounds to me like the pool service company is not doing a very good job and is looking to find someone to blame other than themselves.

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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Lawn Service and phosphate lavels

    The best thing you can do is to get someone started reading here at TFP! But many people will never take the time to educate themselves and will just go along doing what the pool company/store says. If they take a suggestion to read here then great, if not move along and leave them to their fate.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

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    Re: Lawn Service and phosphate levels

    I couldn't agree more with the 'start reading TFP' statement!! I have learned SO much here and the people are very generous with their time and talent - an AMAZING group!
    I'm gonna make a house call to the Pool store today - If I get arrested can one of you bake me a cake with a hack saw blade in it
    Her's another example of how F'd up this industry is - I put a pool in this year. My pool guy is totally incompetent when I ask ?'s. He NEVER knows the answer to, what I think are, simple questions. One of his employees told me that he buys stuff from one distributor. If the dist doesn't carry it he puts no effort into learning about it. BUT... the distributor sends the store owner and his wife on a cruise every year - I guess I'd be closed minded and loyal too - screw the customer!.... The deal included a heater. I had not used it all year but I figured I SHOULD fire it up before I close to make sure it worked. I couldn't get it to light even though I was sure it was plumbed correctly...the ZipperHead installed a propane heater on my Nat Gas line! WOW!!!
    Did my own research and got an AutoPilot SWG and couldn't be happier - he had never heard of the brand!!!
    Boy Am I tired of incompetence!!
    M

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