Swimming pool owners are expected to feel the effects of a hurricane that didn’t so much as brush the eastern coast of United State last August when they go to buy chlorine tabs.
The tabs are in short supply, says Charlie German, who owns and operates Cut Price Pools in Warwick and Johnston. It’s a business he’s run for 50 years.
Like every business owner, COVID threw German a curveball. As a nonessential business, Cut Price closed. That came at a critical time as spring was around the corner. When Cut Price reopened, like pool companies throughout the country, German found demand high. Stuck at home, people wanted swimming pools. German’s stock of pools was quickly depleted and with manufacturers closed or not geared up to meet the demand, he couldn’t fill orders.
The industry has yet to fully rebound. German said he can get some pools, so the situation is somewhat improved from last year. He said demand remains high.
But German can’t blame the pandemic on the lack of sodium dichloro-s-trazientrone dihydrate, which makes up 99 percent of the active ingredients of chlorinating granules and chlorine tabs. The fault is all Hurricane Laura.
Bio-Lab Chemicals of Westlake, Louisiana, experienced a devastating fire on Aug. 27, 2020, about seven hours after Laura made landfall. According to industry reports, the plant was storing 835 toms of trichloroisocyanuric acid (trichlor) when the storm hit.
The company issued a statement the facility had already been evacuated in advance of the hurricane, after following shutdown protocols. A nine-member crew was left to ride out the hurricane. They were the first to learn the plant was on fire. The crew was unable to extinguish the blaze that lasted three days, destroying the plant’s ability to manufacture the chlorine granules. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but now there is a shortage of granules and tabs.
German said Cut-Price as well as other pool suppliers have been placed on an allotment system that can’t exceed what they sold last year. He suspects what product they have is from reserves. Bio-Lab, according to an industry newsletter, produced a third of the country’s trichlor supply. As to be suspected when supplies are down and demand high, the price of tabs is up 28 to 30 percent, German said.
The shortage of granular and tab trichlor has not affected liquid chlorine that German said is readily available. He is also promoting alternate means of sanitizing pools and preventing the growth of algae.
While it does use reduced levels of trichlor, German said customers are happy with the Enjoy System that lasts for a month at a time and requires minimal maintenance.
McDermott Pool, which Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi is working to reopen following the replacement of a pump, heater and other systems, is not expected to be affected by the lack of trichlor.
KIK Custom Products, Bio-Lab’s parent company, based in Toronto, Canada could not be reached for comment.
Charlie German, owner of Cut Price Pools with stores in Warwick and Johnston, said he has limited quantities of chlorine pool tabs as a result of the loss of a major manufacturing operation last August. While the Enjoy System also uses trichlor, active ingredient in the tabs, it is a reduced rate. (Warwick Beacon photo)