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Thread: How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

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    How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

    OK, so I am battling the same issue that many people have. Very low free chlorine and about 2x that in total. I have a high ammonia level and I am keeping everyone out of the pool. I am concerned that the ammonia is being caused by bacteria because the water is crystal clear and there is no algae. Richard (Chem Geek) has me on the right track and I will handle the ammonia monster on Monday.

    However, I met at least two people at pool stores who have the same issues an use the pool...no problem. One guy said his pool has been like this for years! If you go to Walmart they only sell the OTO kits, (which by the way, says my pool is fine, as does Leslies) so any one that goes there for their pool supplies is only measuring total and could very well have this issue for years as well.

    Thoughts?

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    Texas Splash's Avatar
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    Re: How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

    Well, that's a somewhat familiar story, and why at TFP we have to emphasize the use of a recommended test kit. We've all learned (from personal experience) you cannot reply on pool store tests, test strips, or simple over-the-counter kits. They don't read Free Chlorine (FC) or Cyanuric Acid (CYA) levels accurately or to the high levels we need. I too walk into a local pool store from time to time and listen to the chatter. Now that I'm smarter on TFPC, I'm amazed at what I hear from the staff and how much customers pay at checkout (which used to be me).

    Simply put, if CG has given you a plan for your current ammonia issue, you are in great hands. After that however, I would recommend you order one of the test kits we advocate here at TFP (link below) and use TFPC to the fullest extent. Other pool owners struggle to maintain water chemistry but honestly have no idea what they are doing and reply on the pool store. It's an ugly cycle.

    We hope your ammonia issue is resolved quickly so you can enjoy your swimming season.

    By the way, please consider adding your pool info to your signature by going to the top of the TFP web page (just under the Pool School button) and select "SETTINGS". On the next page look to the left for a menu bar that says, “MY SETTINGS” and go to "EDIT SIGNATURE" to enter your pool and equipment info there. It will help us later. Have a great day!
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    Re: How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

    This reminds me of something my dad used to say back in the day..."If everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you do the same?" I have no doubt that there are people who use their pools under the conditions which you describe, but that doesn't make it right. The ammonia can be irritating to skin and eyes and the lack of sufficient FC puts everyone at risk of contracting a bacterial infection.
    One guy said his pool has been like this for years!
    ...And these are likely the same people that follow the traditional pool management methods and close their pool in August when they suddenly get algae because their FC/CYA ratio is out of whack.

    As we often say, our methods and pool store methods are incompatible - you need to decide which one to follow. If you are following chem geek's advice in another thread, I'm sure he has you doing a SLAM. I would not swim until the SLAM is complete and FC drops below 10 ppm.
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    Re: How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

    All, don't get me wrong...I"m on board 100%...I am just amazed that so many people probably have the same issue I do but just don't know it....its scary!

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    Texas Splash's Avatar
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    Re: How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

    Absolutely! Very true.
    Pat (a.k.a. Texas Splash) ~ My Pool: Viking Fiberglass; 17,888 Gal; Waterway Supreme 2-sp/2-hp pump; Hayward Ctg filter; TF-100 w/ Speed Stir
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    Mod Squad woodyp's Avatar
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    Re: How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

    ............."so any one that goes there for their pool supplies is only measuring total and could very well have this issue for years as well."

    Ignorance is bliss for a lotta folks. Oh yeah, and it's a lot less work too.
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    Re: How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

    There is the old saying, "What you don't know can kill you". While I doubt there is much chance of dying in a pool with ammonia instead of chlorine it can be quite unpleasant. Oh yeah, so their kid swims in an ammonia pool and gets a rash. So they "shock" it and now it is full of ammonia and CC and their kid gets a worse rash. According to their test the rash got worse as the chlorine level went up, so obviously their child must be allergic to chlorine! Better switch to baqua, or at least a mineral system so they can use way less of that icky chlorine.

    Sadly, if you search for "allergic" on the forum this is something that must happen pretty often. There are still baqua users on the forum who are swimming in white mold because they are convinced there is a chlorine allergy in the family.

    Funny thing though, of the ones who do take a chance on TFPC I can't think of a case where their "allergy" didn't go away after reaching a proper FC/CYA ratio.

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    Re: How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

    I guarantee that 80% of people who have an above ground pool bought at Walmart and maintained by chemicals bought there are in this position...again...Scary. Like they say, Ignorance is Bliss...I had two guys at pool stores basically tell me just forget about and use the pool.

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    Re: How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

    Here's the other thing. You don't think a pool guy will stay at your house and shock your pool all night do you? Whether they know you have an issue or I'm sure they'll tell you all is OK.

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    Re: How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

    In this post I told you that the bacteria would be killed off not only by the chlorine but by monochloramine formed when chlorine reacts with ammonia. So if you wanted to use the pool, you could from the point of view of bacteria being killed. The main issue is the CC that is monochloramine since at higher levels that can be irritating, but a few ppm is not a problem since that is roughly what is in chloraminated tap water. Your FC and CC are both relatively low so should not be irritating and the fact that you are holding FC at least some means that you don't have any more ammonia (but may have partially degraded CYA that creates slower chlorine demand). When I wrote in this post earlier in that thread the following:

    I would not have your son use the pool until you are able to hold chlorine in it so add chlorine until the FC holds first before letting him use it.
    that was decent advice, but your FC is now holding at least some and you don't have extraordinary FC nor CC so if he really wanted to use the pool he could. Until your FC started to hold you would have been at risk mostly from elevated ammonia levels mostly in terms of stinging of the eyes.

    I disagree that 80% of people with an inexpensive pop-up or Intex pool are in this situation. Most pools do not get a bacterial conversion of CYA to ammonia. What would be more common would be for pools to not have enough chlorine in them. If they had some chlorine, they probably are reasonably safe in terms of not having significant amounts of bacteria, but they may get algae which is unsightly but not unsafe unless it obscures the bottom of the pool (to see a drowned person) or if it is slippery.

    Also as for OTO tests and Leslie's saying everything is OK, that isn't true when you opened the pool since it had ammonia and NO CHLORINE. Then when you added chlorine at first you would still get ZERO FC so even Leslie's would have said this is not safe since they generally test with DPD, not OTO. You would have measured only CC. It is true that the OTO test wouldn't distinguish easily (it DOES first measure FC and over time the CC shows up, but the timeframe isn't very distinct) so would give a false sense of security but as I wrote at least after you added some chlorine the CC (as monochloramine) would start to slowly kill the bacteria. So I don't believe you are characterizing even pool store advice correctly. They generally don't consider the pool safe if it has zero FC so until you started to at least somewhat hold FC then they would not have deemed the pool swimmable.
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    Re: How many people are swimming in unsafe pool water?

    Chem Geek, Thank you for setting the record straight and educating me further. Monday I will start getting the Ammonia and the massive use of Chlorine under control

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