How to Clean Hurricane-Damaged Pools

Terry Arko Headshot

A hurricane-affected pool.A hurricane-affected pool.In October 2012, a hurricane of unprecedented scope hit the East Coast. New Jersey was especially hard-hit with a catastrophic storm surge; at one point, 80 percent of Atlantic City was underwater — as were the swimming pools in that area, too. 

Much of the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas is susceptible to frequent hurricanes and tropical storms. These storms cause seawater to head inland, resulting in massive flooding and water damage to coastal communities. And again, many swimming pools in these communities will be inundated with flood water, which can contain anything from saltwater, salt, sand, algae and phosphates to more serious things like sewage — which can possibly be contaminated by E. coli, giardia and cryptosporidium. 

Ideally, pools that have been contaminated with floodwater should be drained and refilled with fresh water. In cases where this isn’t possible or the damage is not as critical, water can be cleaned with chemicals, flocculation and filtration.

After any type of flood situation, pool equipment should first be inspected and verified to be in good working order. Of most importance: electrical devices. Be sure to test them and replace or repair as needed. In addition, the filter should be inspected before any attempt to clean dirty water in pools. The following is a suggestion for dealing with flooded pools. 

1. First, remove as much physical debris as possible.

2. Make sure all skimmer and pump baskets are free of debris with good circulation and filtration.

3. Superchlorinate the pool to at least 20 ppm. 

4. Maintain pH between 7.2 to 7.4.

5. Once chlorine has been added, follow immediately with a two-stage clarifier. As the filter system operates, add the proper amount of the first stage formula.

6. After 6 hours (or one turnover rate of the filter), add the second stage of the two-part clarifier and continue running the pool filter. 

The pool should clear completely within 24 hours after the second stage of clarifier is added. Backwash or clean the filter after 24 hours. If the existing system is damaged, this system can work with a portable filter system as well. 

Once the water is clear test for phosphates and treat with a phosphate remover if needed. Once phosphate levels have been lowered down to 200 ppb, add a good broad-spectrum algaecide, which will be effective against all types of algae. This type of cleanup method should ensure the pool water is clean and ready for regular maintentance, which should occur between 1 and 3ppm after treatment. 

For more information about treating hurricane-damaged pools, click here

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