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Chlorine shortage could affect summer fun for pool, hot tub owners

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Marty Skiba, owner of Al’s Pool and Spas, stacks some chlorine tablet containers on Friday. The product likely won’t stay on the shelves long, as there is a chlorine shortage in the country that could last into next year.

ALPENA — Residents in Northeast Michigan who depend on chlorine to keep the water in their swimming pools and hot tubs clean may struggle to purchase the chemical, as a shortage of it is gripping the nation.

Prices are already climbing, and the shortage is expected to worsen before the summer’s end.

Inventory of chlorine tablets, and liquid chlorine is already diminished at retailers and pool and spa shops, and sending people scrambling to acquire what they will need for the summer months ahead.

Marty Skiba, owner of Al’s Pool and Spas, said the shortage is already impacting people. Skiba acquired an allotment of chlorine from his wholesalers, but they allocated him a smaller amount than normal.

He is unsure if, or when, he will receive more.

Due to that, he said, he is placing limits on how much customers can buy, so it is sold as evenly as possible to his customers.

“It is flat out going to be a challenge to get chlorine,” Skiba said. “People are going to want to use their pools, and come midsummer people are going to run out and not know what to do. People are going to be scrambling and paying much more if they do find it because of the supply and demand issue.”

There are two primary reasons for the shortage, Skiba said.

First, he said, last year when people were forced to stay home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many purchased pools or hot tubs, most of which use chlorine.

To make matters worse, BioLab, a manufacturing facility in Louisiana that produces chlorine tablets, burned down last year after Hurricane Laura. That leaves only two domestic manufacturers of chlorine tablets, and, even at full production, it isn’t expected they are capable of producing enough product to meet the demand.

BioLab said after the fire, its production won’t begin again until sometime in 2022.

People in the pool industry say when the chlorine tablets run out, pool users will turn to the powder form of the chemical. When that supply is exhausted, the liquid form will be in demand and also run dry, as will non-chlorinated shocks.

Allan Curtis, of Ask the Pool Guy in Howell, said his store’s inventory will run out before the end of this month, and before long most chlorine items will be gone altogether.

“I do believe that all of those are going to literally run out.” Curtis told CNBC in late April.

In Northern Michigan it is already difficult to find chlorine. A search on Walmart’s website shows stores in Alpena, Cheboygan, Sault Ste. Marie, and Petoskey are out of the three-inch tablets and few gallons of the liquid variety are available.

Skiba has worked in the pool industry for 40 years and said he’s never witnessed such a severe shortage.

But chlorine isn’t the only product that there is a shortage of, Skiba said.

He said people wanting to purchase hot tubs are likely to wait as long as eight months to purchase one, plus additional time before it can be installed.

“I have about 50 hot tubs ordered that people are waiting for right now,” he said. “We have pools people can buy, but we are booked out until the fall already, so it wouldn’t be until then until we can set them up. I have never seen anything like this.”

Any business that has pools or jacuzzis will feel the pinch too. Hotels use significant amounts of chlorine to keep the water as pristine for guests, and some owners and managers are just learning of the shortage.

Ramada of Alpena Manager Kat Gray learned about the shortage Friday. She said a pool is the most critical amenity a hotel can have. She said families — even local ones — often book rooms, just to use the pool, the arcade, and the other family friendly amenities.

“The pool is everything and the centerpiece of what we offer families,” Gray said. “It would be God awful to have to shut it down. We will do whatever we have to do to keep the pool up and running.”

The Plaza Pool in Alpena also depends on chlorine to keep the water clean and safe. Norm Sommerfeld, who owns Synchronizations Management, which manages the pool, said he orders supplies from Skiba.

Skibba said he already received the Plaza Pool’s order, and it should be sufficient, for the time being.

“I think they will be ok,” he said.

To extend the life of the chlorine in a pool or hot tub, Skiba said it is imperative that the proper levels of PH, Alkaline, acid, and chlorine are maintained. He said keeping the chemicals balanced properly can reduce the amount of chlorine needed to fight off germs and algae.

“If everything is balanced the way it should be it will hold the Chlorine longer, and you won’t have to add it as often, because it is going to be hard to find,” Skiba said.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

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