What to do to prevent ammonia issue next spring?

tdp

LifeTime Supporter
Sep 16, 2015
57
Suburban Philadelphia
#1
Just opened my pool. Water didn't look horrible, but there was a bit of algae and a TON of earthworms (definitely didn't have that on last year's opening). Our winter here was all over the place, from below freezing to 4-70 or more degree days in Feb. CYA on opening was 0. I'm almost certain I have ammonia, because I can't hold a FC level and CC's are higher than they've ever been (5.5). Pouring jug after jug of 10% bleach in after each chlorine test. UGH.

I asked about minimum CYA to slam
Minimum CYA to slam?
Did as advised, so now CYA is 30, trying to slam at 12 FC but it doesn't hold. Rechecking and adding bleach several times a day.

I am going to buy an ammonia test kit tomorrow, but from reading other threads, ammonia must be the problem. (Now that I got all the winter detritus out of pool, water is clear and sparkly).

My question: how can I prevent this from happening again next year?? I have a SWG, so have to keep CYA ~60-70. But I live somewhere where you have to winterize the pool. If I have to go through this again next year, I will scream.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
14,489
Tucson, AZ
#2
Next time don't add CYA. If you have ammonia is will be neutralized faster if no CYA is present. Then you just SLAM at 10-15ppm FC.

There's no reliable way to predict when CYA will be converted to ammonia as it requires the presence of certain bacteria in the water. The presence of debris and earthworms tells me your pool got really dirty. A green/dirty pool is more likely to see ammonia issues.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Swampwoman

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Apr 27, 2012
3,845
Grand Rapids, MI
#3
My question: how can I prevent this from happening again next year??
I do feel those in the north can to some degree avoid ammonia by ensuring they close with adequate free chlorine, closing clean and cold, and opening cold. Eg take the pool to slam level, let drift down a day or two, then close/cover. If you open while water is in 50s, you will normally still have FC value.

The conversion only happens after FC has zeroed out. If you open with a residual FC, you are highly unlikely to have it.

While ammonia is one thing that causes the behavior you're seeing, I have a reasonable suspicion that excess antifreeze also causes similar symptoms for those in the north who close. If you use antifreeze when you close, always filter to waste to pump it off for a few minutes on opening. Just wanted you to know there could be an alternate thing at work.
 

tdp

LifeTime Supporter
Sep 16, 2015
57
Suburban Philadelphia
#4
I do feel those in the north can to some degree avoid ammonia by ensuring they close with adequate free chlorine, closing clean and cold, and opening cold. Eg take the pool to slam level, let drift down a day or two, then close/cover. If you open while water is in 50s, you will normally still have FC value.

The conversion only happens after FC has zeroed out. If you open with a residual FC, you are highly unlikely to have it.

While ammonia is one thing that causes the behavior you're seeing, I have a reasonable suspicion that excess antifreeze also causes similar symptoms for those in the north who close. If you use antifreeze when you close, always filter to waste to pump it off for a few minutes on opening. Just wanted you to know there could be an alternate thing at work.
I did close/open cold (although I have a pool co. do the closing and opening). I guess the way to tell if it's ammonia or antifreeze is do an ammonia test?

- - - Updated - - -

Not really sure how pool got so dirty; it was clean (and cold) when closed in Oct. Pool deck is slightly higher than surrounding ground, and I have a safety cover, but we did have some fairly large rainstorms this past winter.

This is my 3rd pool season and so far my pool has been anything but "trouble-free". ☹️
 

Swampwoman

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Apr 27, 2012
3,845
Grand Rapids, MI
#5
Did you request that the pool company do only the mechanical close and reserve chemistry for yourself?

What was your FC and CYA on the day you closed? Did you add a Polyquat60 product? And do you maintain your swg parameters according to the [fc/cya][/FC/cya] chart?

Whether its ammonia or antifreeze, either requires pretty much the same treatment, (i had ammonia in a foreclosed pool so i can attest to the method) which is to dose to 10 with liquid chlorine, then read about 20 min later, re dosing each time until it holds...in essence, without bombing the pool, you're frequently but carefully adding the FC in quick succession to break down the ammonia or antifreeze.

Sometimes it takes a few hours of dedicated attention to break it, but then you're clear sailing quickly...

One other factor...is your winter cover mesh or solid, and in either case, do you make a habit of clearing leaf litter before the snow flies? Though they're heavier, solid covers are simply better at preventing algae and dirt accumulation. F you're paying people to put the cover on anyway, I'd consider a switch if yours is mesh.
 

tdp

LifeTime Supporter
Sep 16, 2015
57
Suburban Philadelphia
#6
Yes, I just have company take off cover (it's solid), prime pump, etc. Day I opened, FC was 0 as was CYA. FC and CYA were definitely not 0 when I closed. It was windy enough this winter that there was no leaf debris on the cover.

I do follow TPF SWG guidelines, but since the SWG puts small amounts of chlorine in over time, I use bleach to get things going after opening. Once I pass SLAM, I then raise the CYA and turn on the SWG.

As per message #1 above, I was advised by someone here to raise CYA to 30 and dose chlorine to 12. That is what I've been trying to do, but there doesn't seem to be enough bleach in the world ��
 

kcindc

Gold Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Sep 2, 2011
1,282
Fairfax, VA
#7
I'm a little south of you (Wash DC metro) and I opened April 7th which is a little late for me. I was manually adding bleach before it opened because I could see the water clouding up and was waiting for the opening company to come out.

I have had ammonia, but haven't had it since I now open as soon as the hard freezes are over which is usually the end of March beginning of April. Somehow the mid-Atlantic spring/fall can be weird with a lot of warm days (70s) followed by nights with very hard freezes. Try to open as soon as the hard freezes are over and make sure that the water doesn't touch your cover during the winter. Make sure you close with FC at slam, add polyquat 60 (I add more than the bottle states to account for our weird weather). My closing company also put a few pucks in a floater.

I close my pool later than most as I have an attached in ground spa. I usually close in the beginning of November.
 

tdp

LifeTime Supporter
Sep 16, 2015
57
Suburban Philadelphia
#8
Do you know if getting rid of ammonia is cumulative? What I mean is, if you neutralize some of the ammonia, it is then gone, right? With a SWG my CYA on close was prob around 60ppm, so that's 180ppm of ammonia....YIKES!
 

tdp

LifeTime Supporter
Sep 16, 2015
57
Suburban Philadelphia
#9
Just want to thank everyone that helped me out on this thread. It appears my nightmare is over, since I have a FC that is holding at 6, CC of .5, and a negative ammonia test. And to answer my own question, getting rid of ammonia is cumulative--I did the chlorine additions over several days, and even skipped a day when I was ill. I would say, though, that it's cumulative WITH THESE CAVEATS:

1) YOUR POOL MUST BE CLEANED THOROUGHLY. The ammonia got there in the first place by stuff that somehow got into my pool over the winter that contained bacteria that broke down my CYA. I ran my filter 24/7 and robo-vacuumed and brushed the pool over and over until I got all the junk out and my pool was pristine. I would imagine that if bacteria were still in the pool, they would break down the CYA I added just after opening to get my CYA from 0 to 30.

2) IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO KNOCK THE AMMONIA OUT ALL AT ONCE, BUT AS LONG AS AMMONIA IS IN YOUR POOL, IT WILL EAT FREE CHLORINE. I was able to get away with my chlorine getting very low because my pool was 56 degrees on opening. If your pool is warm enough to swim in, algae can very easily take hold with your chlorine dipping that low many times over several days. For various reasons, I was not able to retest/add chlorine every few minutes or even hours, and that was okay for the ammonia because it doesn't come back once you neutralize it (as long as bacteria are gone and no one is swimming), but if the water hadn't been cold and I wasn't running my filter 24/7, I very well could have gotten algae because for a while the chlorine was pretty much getting consumed by the ammonia almost as soon as I added it.

3) YOU WILL USE MANY MANY GALLONS OF BLEACH QUICKLY, so buy supplies accordingly. I used Pool Chlorinating Liquid which is 10% (higher than household bleach), but went through 20-25 gallons of it before I finally got rid of the ammonia. You can get the 10% concentrate at WalMart or Lowe's that sell pool supplies. You can find out online at either store's website whether or not those branches near you carry what you need. I probably had a lot of ammonia because I have an SWG and had a CYA of about 60-70 at closing; if you do not have a SWG, you probably don't keep your CYA as high so may need less bleach altogether.

4) ADDING THAT MUCH BLEACH WILL AFFECT YOUR pH and TA QUITE A BIT, so be sure to retest and readjust these values once the ammonia is gone.
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
12,819
#10
The way to prevent it is to periodically pull back a part of the cover and check for chlorine. Maintain some chlorine by adding bleach and brushing to mix.