(WGGB/WSHM) -- For the last few weeks, we have discussed the growing concerns over how a chlorine shortage will affect pools both commercially and residentially this summer.
Today, we’re getting you answers and digging into the science to find out what safe chemical alternatives might be available.
“It was so important because number one, I have a child and number two, we weren’t able to go on vacation, so the pool itself was monumental,” said Melissa St. Germain of Chicopee.
St. Germain said her new backyard addition was a lifesaver last summer during the pandemic, but she’s concerned about her ability to maintain it this year.
“When I went to several different stores and every single shelf was empty, I got nervous,” St. Germain noted.
A summer without pools? Not on our watch. We dug deeper to find out just how far the chlorine shortage extends.
Joe Federico, the aquatics director for the city of Springfield, told Western Mass News that while the ongoing lifeguard shortage may prevent some of the public facilities from opening, the chlorine shortage won’t.
“Chlorine will definitely not be an issue. From my understanding, it’s the residential chlorine tabs that there’s a shortage of. We use a special Accutab system for commercial pools and I reached out to my supplier and there is no shortage, so we’re good to go there,” Federico noted.
In fact, pre-registration for use of Springfield public pools this summer is now open online, so if pool time is a concern, you can already hop in line to snag your spot.
Six Flags New England is also on track to open their water park Memorial Day weekend as previously scheduled. In a statement issued to Western Mass News, they explained: “Our waterpark is slated to open May 29. Our suppliers have assured us that there is sufficient supply of liquid chlorine which most of our waterparks use.”
It turns out that the shortage is only for residential chlorine tabs – not chlorine itself - and it’s also not being caused by the pandemic.
“You’re talking about a chlorine shortage that was caused by a plant that went offline because of Hurricane Laura,” said Michael Maroney, professor emeritus in the UMass Department of Chemistry.
Maroney taught chemistry at UMass Amherst for over three decades and he’s here to offer some alternate solutions. In a pinch, he said household bleach is a safe alternative. The only catch is the amount of it you’ll need.
“One pound of Dichlor, which people are probably pretty familiar with, I think is equal to about eight gallons of household bleach,” Maroney explained.
Just make sure it’s not color safe. Color safe bleach does not contain hypochlorite, does not make active bleach, and does not belong in your pool. You can also find a higher concentration of sodium hypochlorite than household bleach at the pool store, but you’ll need to add a stabilizer.
Option number two could be salt-water conversions, which is something St. Germain said she’ll consider if things get really bad.
“Chlorine is made by electrolysis of sodium chloride solutions, sodium chloride is table salt…Basically, what you’re doing there is you’re using salt water in your pool. It’s not salty like the ocean, it’s much lower concentration of salt and then you’re doing essentially what industry is doing to make chlorine is electrolyzing it,” Maroney added.
The equipment for a saltwater conversion will cost you a couple thousand dollars.
Another option could be chlorine’s neighbor on the periodic table.
“Bromine is very popular in spas and hot tubs because it works a little better at higher temperatures. It’s not quite as reactive as chlorine, so the dosing will be different and things like that, but bromine is an alternative. It’s usually a little more expensive than chlorine,” Maroney said.