A North American chlorine shortage is straining prices, and the effects are already being felt here in New Brunswick. The cause is an unfortunate double whammy, with a production disaster and the pandemic each playing a role.
In August 2020, a massive fire at a Louisiana factory took North America’s largest pool and spa care provider offline.
The BioLab plant produces about 70 percent of the chlorine treatments in the North American market, according to Dion Rodrigues, director of marketing for Pool Supplies Canada, based in Burlington, Ont.
The plant should not resume production until spring 2022.
“So this situation certainly has an impact on the Canadian swimming pool industry,” said Rodrigues.
But the demand for chlorine was increasing even before the fire, he said, as Canadians shut down by the pandemic plunged into pool and spa purchases in record numbers.
“Basically they took their unused travel budget and said, ‘We’re going to put the hotel pool in the backyard.’ “
Prices already up by almost 20%
Shelley Melvin, of Emmerson Pools in Rothesay, said she has certainly seen this play out here in New Brunswick.
Melvin said Emmerson’s pool and spa facilities “have at least doubled already”, with more to come this summer.
This has not only caused a shortage of chemicals, but also liners and other pool-related items as staff at many manufacturing plants are at half capacity due to the pandemic, Melvin said.
People panic a bit and buy more than they need. I think if people didn’t do that it would definitely help a lot.– Paul Crowdis, owner of the pool and hot tub
Kelly Hare, who co-owns Premium Pools and Spas with her husband Tim Hickey, said prices have already gone up 10-15%, and in some cases 20%, on everything from chlorine washers to spas, and there are “huge safeguards for the supply chain”.
Plus, she said, manufacturers have limited the amount of spas and other items that can be ordered.
“They’ve capped what you can get, so anything we have to sell sells out fast,” Hare said.
Concerns about panic buying relapses
Some predict that the shortage will trigger another pandemic phenomenon: hoarding.
This is certainly a concern in the United States, where several media outlets warn of tight supplies and locals lament chlorine droughts on Facebook.
“Dude. Who accumulates the chlorine tablets ??? All the surrounding stores… none! Someone posted Thursday on the public page of the Above Ground Pools group, which lists Canadian and US members.
“I bought a tub two weeks ago (5 pounds) for $ 29 and Amazon is trying to sell for $ 160. If you accumulate, STOP! … We all want to enjoy our pools here. “
Rothesay resident Paul Crowdis said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the same happen here.
It’s one thing to stock up on what you need for the season; it’s another to pick up enough for five seasons, leaving none for anyone else, he said.
“When the pandemic started, you couldn’t buy a roll of toilet paper in this town,” Crowdis said.
“It’s the same with chlorine, people panic a bit and buy more than they need. I think if people didn’t do that it would definitely help a lot. “
Crowdis, which has both a pool and a hot tub, said it stocked up on chlorine pucks last season when prices were cut.
“But when I went to buy some pellet [chlorine] I noticed the price had gone up… about 20 percent. And the price of the washers has also gone up, by about 15 percent. ”
As an example, he said, a large container of granulated chlorine that cost $ 79 last year will now cost $ 99.
Finding alternatives to chlorine
Crowdis said the price has yet to reach a point where it would consider closing its pool or hot tub, but is already considering alternatives, such as a saltwater system.
Hare said Premium Pools had several inquiries about alternative systems, such as ionizers and saltwater systems.
” More [the salt-water systems] are also out of stock, and there’s no salt, “Hare said.” Canadian Tire, Walmart, they’re all sold out.
Ionizers are popular, she said, but at $ 800 they’re not a cheap solution and the price will rise due to lower demand and lower supply.
“It’s just one more thing to add to the list of rising prices. “
If you’re looking for a bright spot, there are pools that won’t be affected by the price hike: public recreational pools.
Ernie Breau, director of maintenance at the Canada Games Aquatic Center, said the chlorine shortage will not affect the city’s pool or splash pads as they use chlorine washers not stabilized.
“As I understand it, the shortage affects stabilized washers and calcium hypochloride chlorine powder, used for swimming pools and home spas,” said Breau.
However, he noted, “from what I hear people are already stocking up on unstabilized pucks.”