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Thread: Algae and Ears...

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    Algae and Ears...

    OK... Been at war since Saturday with the dreaded Algae. This is the time of the year we are always battling algae, just after the Fourth of July, when everyone goes to the beach. With sweeping, shocking, backwashing, over and over since Saturday, things are on the upswing. No more green, just a little white cloudiness, and the divewell bottom is visible with detail!!

    Here's my question, can algae cause ear infections? Stupid? I know infections come from bacteria in the ear, in which the moisture in the ear promotes growth, hence, ear infections. I've somehow inherited the pool 'maintenance' half way through the swim year. This is an olympic size pool, but private pool. The algae's not a problem, nearly gone. The problem is one member's son gets an ear ache yesterday. Instead of going to the doctor, they do the typical call the office and have something called in. At 1 a.m., they're sitting in the ER with a doctor telling them that this is caused from something in the pool. With that said, the kid spent all day in the river the day before getting 'sick'. As stupid as it sounds, can algae cause ear aches? Last month we had about 5 or 6 kids come down with ear 'infections', no algae though. I pretty much contributed the ear problems then with the kids swimming 8 hours a day, everyday to swimmer's ear.

    Question number 2, is the algae that tends to grow in pools, any different than the algae that grows in rivers or oceans?

    I'm basically trying to stop a mass hysteria of mother's, by gathering as much info as I can to answer these mothers.

    Oh yeah, my partner who has also been thrown into the maintenance with me, took a sample by one of the local pool suppliers and had it checked. As far as chemicals and balance, the one problem we had was pH being low, around 6.2. Not a problem. We'll be straightening that out this week with a couple hundred pounds of soda ash.

    Thinking out loud to myself of the obvious....
    Now... With all that said, one other 'stupid' question. We have one guy who has been 'maintaining' the pool for years. Evey year about this time, we have this algae problem, which he has always solved by a heavy shock and adding about 5 gallons of 20% algaecide. His regular maintenance consists of trichlor 3" tablets added to the skimmers. 5 tabs per skimmer, 7 functioning skimmers. The routine is to backwash and 'shock' on Sundays. NO other chemcials except an ocassional 8 lbs. of pH increase. Water had been great up until this week when it went south. Could it be that by using just the tabs to maintain the chlorine, that we have max'ed our CYA at this point in the year, where the chlorine is less effective? "The CYA that they put into your pool water never goes away and, in fact, continues to build. Building often to a point that it can render your chlorine ineffective. You start to develop algae and don't understand why." ... Pool School The TC and FC have been around 4-4, 5-3 all year.
    188K gal, gunite, 3.5 cu.yd sand filter, skimmers-full 3" Tabs (X7), M.E.G. Cleaning System (Manual Elbow Grease)

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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    Quote Originally Posted by fireman565
    Here's my question, can algae cause ear infections? Stupid? I know infections come from bacteria in the ear, in which the moisture in the ear promotes growth, hence, ear infections.

    Question number 2, is the algae that tends to grow in pools, any different than the algae that grows in rivers or oceans?

    Algae in a pool is the same as what grows elsewhere. I don't believe algae causes swimmer's ear, but the presence of algae indicates an unsanitized pool, which means most anything COULD be living in the water.

    It's almost certain that your CYA is high, and probably just as certain that the high CYA is the cause of your algae bloom. My own private pool gains 7.5ppm CYA per week using trichlor pucks. A pool that isn't covered and has high bather load would experience much higher chlorine consumption, with an associated higher CYA increase. I would bet your CYA increases by around 20ppm per week of operation.
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    AnnaK's Avatar
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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    Welcome to TFP! That is one mighty big pool you have. Is it a neighbourhood association pool?

    There are hundreds, maybe thousands of algae types. The likelihood of pool algae being different from lake, pond, river, and ocean algae is pretty high. For a decent overview you might want to check out Wikipedia.

    My money for the ear troubles is on the low pH. When that pH 6.2 water gets inside ears it drastically changes the native pH of the ear canal and will allow all manner of normal flora to take over, bacteria as well as fungi. Has nobody complained yet about dry, itchy skin? That's another sign of low pH. Can algae cause ear infections? Bacterial and fungal overgrowth inside the ear canal as a result of a change of the acidic environment of the ear canal causes otitis externa. That can happen when swimming, sure, and also by getting water in your ear when taking a shower or walking in the rain.

    You might want to test for CYA. Could be sky high by now, or not. We, here, would suggest to you to ditch the trichlor and the pH Up and the 20% algaecide and find a good, reliable source for liquid chlorine, baking soda, borax, and polyquat 60. Oh, and a good test kit.

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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    JohnT...

    Yeah... there's a real good chance we're fighting a high CYA problem after several weeks of trichlor pucks. We're also fighting a stubborn maintenance person who believes everything's okay using just pucks...

    AnnaK...
    This is a private neighborhood pool with about 80 families. On average we have about 30 people a day swim. The problem with basically converting over to BBB is the mass quantity of baking soda, borax, etc... Right now just getting the pH up would take around 200 lbs. of borax, and about the same amount of baking soda to get the TA up... Of course, if we reached our balance at the first of the year, and maintained it, it would be considerably less material. It wouldn't be a problem once the pH, TA, and CYA were balanced, the problem would be in the amount of liquid chlorine it would take each week would be alot, ...but cheaper. Hmmmm.. it may be time to overthrow the maintenance guy.
    188K gal, gunite, 3.5 cu.yd sand filter, skimmers-full 3" Tabs (X7), M.E.G. Cleaning System (Manual Elbow Grease)

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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    That is one giant pool. I would get the CYA level checked and corrected. The low pH should be a major concern if there is a heater in your system. The low pH shouldn't have anything to do with the ear problems. The pH of the ear canal is about 4.5 and it is high pH water that causes the problems with changing the acidity of the canal.

    You might look into an automated chlorine system. I can't imagine trying to manage a pool that size dosing chemicals by hand.

    Kids tend to spend more time in the water than adults and it's water remaining in the ear canal that causes the problem. Younger kids have ear canals that are not fully formed and more prone to retaining fluids. There are preventative measures for swimmers ear that parents can use. Some are over the counter and some you can mix up yourself.

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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    188000 gallons?! Holy cow!!! I can not believe that there is not an automated chlorine system on the thing!

    Too bad the maintenance guy is so stubborn. What does he use to test the water, btw? Is it just a basic DPD test kit, and he has absolutely no idea about CYA?

    You're right, the amount of liquid chlorine would be a lot for that size pool. But at least you wouldn't have the pucks driving down your Ph anymore! I don't even use anything to raise my Ph; sometimes I have to lower it, though.

    Hopefully you would be able to get the type of liquid or even gas chlorine feeding systems that are used in large public pools. I know those are expensive, though.
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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    It's probably not caused by algae. It's very common for kids to get it.

    Google "swimmers ear" and you'll find a lot of info. Some people are more prone to get problems than others. There are drops that people can buy to prevent problems. Vinegar, peroxide or rubbing alcohol can all be used to prevent it. I think alcohol is the least preferred as it is drying; I use peroxide at the end of the day (when I remember to) if I'm in a river kayaking.

    I tend to get ear problems from swimming in pools also sometimes. In my case, it's small ears and wax build-up. I just put peroxide in my ears and flush the wax out (there are kits sold over-the-counter). The first time I had the problem in college, I had to go to the doctor and they showed me how to flush it.

    Sue

    here's a couple links: http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections ... r_ear.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otitis_externa

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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    If you have a high CYA, an FC level of 3-5 may not be enough, especially with a high swimmer load. This combination may have caused the ear infections.

    But, it could also have been the river they were swimming in that caused it, the doctor is just guessing anyway, how would he know if it was the river or the pool that caused it?

    BTW, with a pool that big, the benefit of getting a good test kit, like the tf testket, is a no brainer.

    When you do get it, if you have a CYA of 100 or higher, you should do a partial drain of the pool, would hate to see that water bill.

    Randy
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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    Quote Originally Posted by Denali
    The low pH shouldn't have anything to do with the ear problems. The pH of the ear canal is about 4.5 and it is high pH water that causes the problems with changing the acidity of the canal.

    It's that low? Thanks for the information, I learned a new thing today.
    — AnnaK —

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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    Have you considerer and SWG? It might be expensize at first(for the Saltwater Generator(s), but will surely pay for itself with the savings in chemical costs, mainly chlorine.

    HTH,
    Adam
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    frustratedpoolmom's Avatar
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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    Sounds like you have a fun job on your hands....

    Overthrow the maintenance guy because he's why you'all have a 188K mess on your hands

    I'm sure you can find some online suppliers for these chems that will give you free shipping, for sure your order will be $100 or more! LOL

    A use the rubbing alcohol trick, my daughter is prone to the swimmers ear as water is always getting trapped in there. One little drop and the water just comes right out. Works great, she hasn't complained of dryness.

    I concur with the above advice, it's very likely the CYA is thru the roof and the pool is just not appropriately sanitized to kill whatever germies are in there, ear issues or otherwise. Just be glad it wasn't Crypto....

    Good luck!
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    Butterfly's Avatar
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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    Hey fireman565,

    Just wondering if you are gonna' show us a pic of that monster!
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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    Quote Originally Posted by jjparrish
    Hey fireman565,

    Just wondering if you are gonna' show us a pic of that monster!
    I'd bet you my bikini you'll never get TFP water from a pool store!

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    Re: Algae and Ears...

    Here ya go. We have an ever-so-slight haze in the dive well, but that's it. With another couple of days, the algae should be filtered out...

    188K gal, gunite, 3.5 cu.yd sand filter, skimmers-full 3" Tabs (X7), M.E.G. Cleaning System (Manual Elbow Grease)

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