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Common Problems


Common Problems

Cloudy Water

Several problems can occur that result in water becoming cloudy. These include heavy rain, very hot weather, extra heavy use of the pool, poor filtration, improper chemical balance, pool cover left on too long, or water that has become unsuitable for use in a pool.

If your pool starts to cloud before your service day, simply call the office to notify us. We can usually get someone out to your pool that day or the next.

Emptying skimmer and pump baskets on a regular basis and backwashing the filter or cleaning the filter cartridge periodically will help to ensure good water circulation which is critical in maintaining clear water.

If your pool has good circulation and the chemicals have been adjusted as necessary but the pool is still cloudy, the next step is to get a water sample and test for other problems. The route person will bring a water sample to our office for analysis. Once the water is tested, we will call you to advise of our findings and to recommend a remedy.


Algae are microscopic plants Like all plants, algae reqire nutrients. Algae obtain their food from leaves, plants and organic matter (including bathers).

There are more than thirty thousand different species of algae. In an effort to make identification easier, the swimming pool industry classifies algae as bule-green, mustard (or yellow), pink and black (also known as black-spot algae). Blue-green algae is suspended in the water and causes cloudiness. Pink algae suspends itself throughout the water. Mustard or yellow algae tends to lay gently on the walls and floor of the pool. Black-spot algae affixes itself to the floor and walls particularly in cracks and crevices where water circulation is less intense.

The growth of algae can usually be prevented by maintaining correct chlorine levels, by using a quality algaecide as part of your regular maintenance, and by proper circulation. If you would like us to add algaecide as a preventative measure, notify our office.

The following factors need to be considered when treating an algae infestation:

It is important that sufficient chlorine and/or algaecide is added to treat all of the algae at one time. Otherwise, the remaining algae will just multiply and the problem will still exist. It is very important to follow the directions for use on the package.

The older algae becomes, the more difficult it is to control. Treat the problem as soon as it is noticed.

Different types of algae require different types of treatment.

Green Algae – This is the most common type; it can quickly infest a pool. Green algae problems frequently appear overnight following heavy rainstorms. This is because rainstorms, especially those with lightning, actually provide food for the algae in the form of nitrogen.

Yellow or Mustard Algae – Yellow algae grows very slowly; by the time you notice it, it has usually been there several weeks, thus making it more difficult to destroy. This algae grows in dark areas of the pool such as plumbing and filters which only compounds the difficulty of control. To treat mustard algae, you must select a product specifically for control of this form of algae. It is not unusual to need to treat mustard algae more than once to bring it fully under control.

Black Algae – Black algae typically gain a foothold in areas of the pool that suffer from poor circulation. Areas such as corners, or in certain areas of the deep end, are often places where black algae will appear. Due to inadequate circulation, little or no sanitizer or algaecide get to these areas. Therefore, it is necessary to correct the circulation problems.

Once it begins forming, black algae develops specialized cells that lock it deep in the pores of pool surfaces. In order to effectively control it, all of its cells, including those deep in the surface, must be killed. It is all but impossible for chlorine alone to get this deep into the pores of the pool.

In addition, the outer layers of the black algae produce a waxy coat that prevents chlorine or algaecides from penetrating and killing it.

The following steps will help to bring algae under control:

  1. Correct any problems with the circulation pattern in the pool.
  2. Brush the sides and floor of the pool giving particular attention to corners, seams, around fixtures, steps, etc. This is especially important with black algae; brushing will help to break through the waxy coating. Continue to brush the pool daily until the problem is resolved.
  3. Add an algaecide intended for the type of algae which is the problem.

Stains and Scale on the Pool Walls, Floor or Steps

Metal Stains – Problems of stain formation on pool surfaces or colored water are most often associated with iron, copper or manganese.

Each of these metals can enter a pool by several means and will react in different ways. One of the most common ways these metals can enter the pool is via the fill water. To prevent problems with staining, it is necessary to add a sequestering agent to the fill water as it is being added.

Iron – Reacts with chlorine to produce a rusty red color in water or orange colored staining.

Copper – Is a common cause of clear green water and stains ranging in color from blue-green to black. Copper is also responsible when hair or fingernails turn green.

Manganese – Will color the water from pink to deep purple depending on the level present.

All three metals can easily be kept from causing problems with the regular use of a sequestering agent. The sequestering agent will chemically combine with the metals in the water and keep them from precipitating out of the water to cause staining.

If stains do occur, there are products available to remove the stains. It is best to add these as soon as possible after the staining occurs. Success with removing old stains is very limited.

Mildew Under the Liner

If small amounts of moisture accumulate under the liner, mildew can form. The moisture may result from ground water, imperfections in the liner, or leaks around the main drain or in-floor cleaning valves.

The mildew will appear as a gray or black patch, usually on the floor of the pool. It is sometimes assumed to be black algae. However, if you attempt to brush the patch, it will not move.

Increased chlorine levels will sometimes cause the mildew to retreat, but a permanent solution requires replacement of the liner after correcting the cause of the moisture.


Scaling may result when the calcium hardness is high and the pH or the total alkalinity rise above normal levels.

Calcium hardness is the term for all the calcium dissolved in water. At high levels, the calcium is unstable. In addition, calcium does not like warm water. As water temperature rises, calcium becomes more likely to precipitate out of solution.

Calcium content is best is the range of 100-400 ppm. If the hardness level is high, adding a sequestering agent will help. The sequestering agent will not remove the calcium, but it will keep the calcium dissolved which helps to prevent scaling.

Colored Water

Colored water is usually caused by metals in the water, the source of which is usually fill water.

Clear green water – Is an indication of high copper levels. (If the water is a cloudy green, this is usually caused by algae. See the section on Algae.)

Copper is also the responsible agent when hair or fingernails turn green, not chlorine.

Rusty red water – Is the result when iron in the water reacts with chlorine or other oxidizers.

Pink to deep purple water – Is an indication of manganese in the water, the color dependent on the level of manganese present.

Foam & Scum

Foaming and scum formation are serious detractions from the goal of crystal clear swimming pool water. Certain types of algaecides do cause very low levels of foam. If there is an air leak in the return lines, this can lead to a higher level of pool water foaming. While an anti-foam can help, the problem is more of a mechanical nature: fix the air leak.

Scum formation occurs when body oils, cosmetic residues, waste and chemical byproducts form insoluble materials. This problem can be controlled with the use of enzyme products.

Eye Irritation and Chlorine Odor

Free chlorine is the most desirable form of chlorine. It is the form responsible for the actual disinfection activity in the water. When added to water, free chlorine quickly attacks bacteria as well as bather and other wastes. When this occurs, the chlorine is no longer considered free chlorine, rather its form has changed and is now referred to as combined chlorine. Bather and other wastes are largely made up of ammonia and nitrogen compounds. For this reason, combined chlorine is also referred to as chloramines for the nitrogen portion of the compound.

Combined chlorine is very stable, but has little or no sanitizing ability. Not only is combined chlorine a very poor disinfectant, it is the agent responsible for eye burn and skin irritation and results in the unpleasant chlorine odor often referred to as “too much chlorine”.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

Total dissolved solids is the sum of all materials dissolved in the water and normally runs in the range of 250 ppm and higher.

There is much discussion over what levels are considered too high, but there is no real lower limit. TDS is comprised of many different chemical compounds, which means that the issue of how much is too much actually depends more on what they consist of than how much there is. In general, when the TDS exceeds approximately 1500 ppm, problems may begin to occur.

Pools whose sanitizing systems are based on chlorine generation equipment will likely have much higher TDS levels. These pools actually have salt in one form or another added to the pool. The salt used is highly soluble and does not cause the type of problems normally associated with high TDS, but never the less, it does add to the TDS level in the pool. When testing water for TDS in this type of pool, the salt intentionally added to the pool needs to be taken into account.

At elevated levels, TDS can lead to cloudy or hazy water, difficulty in maintaining water balance, reduction in sanitizer activity and foaming. Unfortunately, the only way to reduce TDS is to drain a portion of the water and replace it with fresh water. Sequestering agents do not help when high TDS levels are causing cloudy water.

Phosphates and Nitrates

Phosphates can increase the likelihood of algae growth in swimming pool water and can enter the water from such sources as: decaying plant matter, fertilizers, mineral treatment chemicals, contaminated well water, acid rain, contamination with soil, ground water runoff, bird droppings, bather wastes, urine and sweat. Phosphates are a vital plant nutrient and their presence in swimming pool water, even at low concentrations, can cause accelerated algae growth. Higher levels of phosphates can make algae control more difficult and increase the amount of sanitizer required to maintain satisfactory control of algae. It is possible to remove modest levels of phosphates by treating the pool water with a phosphate precipitating lanthanum product. Very high levels of phosphates may require water replacement.

Nitrates can promote the problem growth of algae in swimming pool water and can enter the water from such sources as: decaying plant matter, fertilizers, contaminated well water, acid rain, contamination with soil, ground water runoff, bird droppings, bather wastes. Nitrates in a high concentration (above 10-25 ppm) can cause accelerated algae growth. The most common method for removing nitrates from the water is water replacement.