Managing Pools During Regional Wildfires

Aqua swimming Pool

Recent devastating fires spreading around Canada are sending large quantities of smoke/ash into the air, which is making its way to the United States. As a result, pollutants introduced by the ash and smoke can make pool maintenance very difficult. Staying on top of pool maintenance is important in order to ensure the sanitizer residual does not become overwhelmed by the introduction of debris or that water quality suffers due to the increased demand on the filtration system.

Here are a few swimming pool management tips, courtesy of BioLab, to help keep pool water clean and chemically balanced when safe to do so. Be sure to follow all local guidelines when outdoors and pay attention to local weather updates that might impact your area.

Tip No. 1: Test water and keep up with balance, sanitization and disinfection.

  • Monitor the pool for elevated pH and difficulty maintaining free chlorine residual caused by the introduction of debris and ash.
  • When safe to do so, and if possible, remove any visible debris from your pool. As always, test the pool water frequently. Ash coming from trees and vegetation contains large amounts of carbon — making it highly alkaline, which can radically increase the pH. High pH environments are not ideal for maintaining free chlorine. When chlorine is added to water, hypochlorous acid (HOCl), the killing form of chlorine needed to disinfect and sanitize, is generated. It is especially important to keep pH between 7.4 to 7.6 so that enough HOCl is present. When the pH rises above 7.6, more hypochlorite (-OCl) is formed than HOCl instead, reducing chlorine ‘s ability to disinfect.
  • It will be important to maintain a free chlorine residual. The pool may need to be shocked more often if the free chlorine residual keeps dropping. Shock regularly. Chlorine demands are possible, so heavy chlorination may be necessary to destroy contaminants enough for the residual to be maintained for at least 48 hours. A non-chlorine shock may be needed if combined chlorine readings are excessive.
  • In addition to carbon, ash also contains magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. Being mindful of total hardness and orthophosphate will also be important to keeping properly balanced water. With potentially higher pH environments and added calcium, calcium scaling is possible. A scale control product may be needed to keep carbonate scaling from forming on surfaces. Be sure to keep an eye on orthophosphate levels as well. Use a phosphate removal product if the phosphate level exceeds 500 ppb and continue to maintain and control phosphates with a weekly phosphate maintenance product.

Tip No. 2: Be sure to keep up with preventative algaecides.

Since it may be a challenge to maintain the free chlorine residual, algae prevention will also be difficult. Be sure to apply an algaecide at least weekly. More may be needed if early growth is observed. More brushing may be needed to keep any grime or dirt from building up on pool surfaces.

Tip No. 3: Filtration & Troubleshooting

Be sure to continuously operate your filter and be prepared to monitor the filter pressure gauge for any increases. Backwashing or chemical cleaning may be needed more often for heavily soiled pools.

If water balance is properly maintained and an adequate sanitizer residual is established and maintained, troubleshooting products can also come in handy to keep contaminants filtering away. 

If water becomes cloudy and the water is properly balanced, look for troubleshooting products that incorporate powerful enzymes and chitosan clarifiers that will quickly restore the water to its clear state. It’s important to also monitor the filter pressure when clarifiers are used and clean according to the manufacturer’s recommendations when needed.

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