Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Summer Lull

It happens every year. Most of us in the Pool Biz are used to it, and ready for it. There’s a flurry of service and repair calls as everybody gets their pools ready for the swimming season, and then there’s a slow down, where everybody’s all set and the phone calls slow down. That’s when we settle into our normal workaday level of activity. That’s what you try to dial your business to handle; that summer lull. The busy time right before the lull makes you feel like you’re going to pull your hair out, and then again in the fall, when there’s so much junk falling into the pools and overstressing the pumps and clogging the lines that the phone rings off the hook all over again. But that’s how the game is played.

At least here in Texas. I know a bit about other markets because I’ve worked in a few. Like I know that southern California isn’t as much like that. They really don’t have a high debris season, like our spring and fall, and their swimming season is longer than here. I cleaned the pool of a college professor in southern California that swam laps for an hour a day in his pool year ‘round, using a wet suit for a few months in the winter. You really couldn’t do that here in Texas. When the water gets to forty-five degrees, it’s going to be cold even with a wet suit.

But that’s really the trick in business, isn’t it? Knowing your market? Like a couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog piece about all the rain we’re having here and how, because our pools here in Texas are built with modern conveniences like tile line drains so that pool owners don’t have to go out and pump water off the pool every time it rains, the result on salt pools is that you end up losing a lot of salty water out the tile line drain. And so, for guys like me, that means humping more and more salt to the pools every time it rains. Kind of a hard position to challenge, wouldn’t you think?

Well, there’s this one Salt Peddler, and he just went off over what I said, blathering on and on about how if I was carrying something called Jerry Jugs, that he says hold two and a half gallons and weigh in at twenty pounds apiece, and if I had a hundred customers and if they were using one Jerry Jug a week, I’d be humping eight thousand six hundred pounds of chlorine a month, so why was I bitching about the salt?

What the hell’s a Jerry Jug? No, really, I know what a Jerry Jug is. It’s those little containers we use to fill up our lawnmowers and stuff. This guy lives in Florida. And I admit, I don’t know the Florida market very well. I know a lot of their pools have screened rooms over them. I hear that they are often pool-only setups, with no attached spa. I hear that they use a lot of small pumps (1 horsepower) and small (100 square foot or so) cartridge filters. They don’t tend to use automatic cleaners because they’re in enclosures, but if they do, they use suction side cleaners, like Kreepy Krawleys or Navigators. I hear their water is hard, so it makes sense to me that they use liquid chlorine to shock their pools, and if it’s cheap enough, with the increase in trichlor prices over the last couple of years, I could see where they might decide to run their pools exclusively on liquid chlorine, even with the extra muriatic acid and stabilizer they’ll have to buy to go along with it.

And so the Jerry Jugs come in because they probably have a big reservoir of liquid chlorine on their service trucks that they use to pump the Jerry Jug full.

How am I doing? I’m guessing, you see. Because I haven’t been to Florida since I visited my Gramma in Dunedin Beach in 1968 when I was a teenager. And, you see, I don’t claim to be an expert on the Florida market because I don’t live and work there.

People that do live and work in the servicing end of this business in Florida have come to appreciate salt a lot more than we have here it Texas, because it gets them out of a closed loop that they’re stuck in: 1 horsepower pumps, 100 square foot cartridge filters, in-line tablet feeders, a lot less tile line drains and constantly rising stabilizer levels. Just go back and read Evan’s comments on Rain, Rain Go Away to see what I’m talking about. Evan works in a pool & spa supply center in Florida and I would imagine tests a lot of water and knows the typical equipment profile for his customers.

He says that the problems we see with salt really haven’t presented themselves like they have here in Texas and in Arizona. And I take what he says at face value. After all, it’s his market, and he knows his market, and he doesn’t claim to know mine. It sounds like he’s in south Florida, but, again, I’m guessing.

Not like the Salt Peddler, who, by the way, is the National Sales something-or-other for his company, and goes around the entire country to all the pool expos holding his Bum Dope Seminars, and while you may think that’s mean for me to call them that, consider that the guy doesn’t even know that you can’t buy liquid chlorine at the pool suppliers here in Dallas, Texas. I mean, he doesn’t have the first idea about the typical chemicals that the average pool serviceman carries on his truck to do his job each day here in Texas. And that’s because he hasn’t considered for a minute the differences in our water over the water in Florida. And that’s because he’s busier coming up with excuses why guys like me are all wrong than he is investigating the claims that salt may not be appropriate for all pools. Like that one in Canada, as-a-big-effing-fer-instance… But he’s sure his Salt System is right for your pool.

And all I can say is that this guy’s not unique. His level of understanding is pretty typical of most of the Sales Reps I run into. Their knowledge of the subject is usually very regional. In fact, it’s often so regional that if they don’t see the problem on their own pool in their own back yard, then it doesn’t exist. Not to mention that the Sales Boss told them it doesn’t exist. Now, you’ll usually find a lot more technical knowledge when you talk to their Technical Reps. That’s the nature of the beast, Salesmen Sell; Tech Reps Fix – and keep their mouths shut.

The other unique flaw inherent in trying to represent salt systems, and one that’s not really been very well explored, is that for a guy to properly represent them he needs to be a technical AND chemical whiz kid. So far, I haven’t met any of those. But then, if a guy was both, he would see how deeply flawed the technology is, and he wouldn’t want to Sell It or Fix It.

A south Florida pool builder wrote to me recently. He had experience with salt systems from the last company he worked with before getting out on his own:

“I too think the salt systems are [a] joke. Before moving out on my own, I use to argue with my last boss…about what a profit drain the salt cells became. He spent more money running service reps around to adjust and repair them than he could ever hope to make on the sale of the unit.”

Later, he and I were discussing the regional aspects of salt damage and he wrote:

“I do agree that maybe some of the damage is centralized to The Great State of Texas (I grew up in Irving) and Arizona but only because y'all (felt good to the dust of that vocabulary word) use more natural stones than other parts of the country. With the freeze/thaw cycle up north the natural stones fall apart. Down here in Florida…wages are paid in sunshine and beaches… and [people] very seldom go for the exotic materials. Although the trend is expanding as people are getting tired of cracked concrete decks. Acrylic topped decks have been the rage for the last 10 years. Now pavers seem to be all anyone wants anymore. I will be curious to see what impact salt has [on] these materials.”

He doesn’t sell salt systems. Doesn’t want to be part of the problem.

Then, there’s another Gulf Coast builder who will only sell a salt system to those “few customers that absolutely insist on having salt systems and… sign the extensive waiver that pretty much absolves me of any warranty on the pool whatsoever.” It’s only after his best effort to dissuade them and only when he’s starting to get that belligerent attitude and the customer is starting to accuse him of just trying to make money "off the stuff we are pushing" in his store, and that the customer has lots of friends who have the system and "just love it", or the best accusation so far, that he should get on the internet and investigate these new systems and "get out of the stone age".

So much for consumer protection.

So, while I respect Evan’s comments that salt has been a good fit in Florida, some of the builders in that general region of the country - the ones who have to stand warranty on the pool structure after the sale - are telling a different story. Granted, it doesn’t get your stabilizer levels down if you go back to tabs, and so I see where you might want to see salt as the answer, or at least as less of a problem. But ask yourself this:

How many builders are making people sign a damage waiver before they’ll install a tab feeder on a swimming pool?

I want to make one more point and then I’m going to take advantage of the Summer Lull and go on Vacation for two weeks – which means I’ll post again on August 5th. There’s an interesting Letter to the Editor here

Robert A. Carson, the Environmental Programs Administrator for the City of Thousand Oaks, California, quite objectively states that “these systems are brackish…filter backwash….rainwater overflow… pool draining… are going to be significant issues. Salt and chloride are pass through pollutants for a wastewater treatment plant. …regulation of chloride-rich waste streams will be forthcoming in many areas. I wouldn’t want to be the vendor or contractor trying to explain to customers why this state-of-the-art system is obsolete, that draining his pool is illegal, that a parade of tanker trucks will be needed to haul away his…pool water.”

Now, before you say, “yeah, another whacky Californian tree hugger”, let me tell you a bit about Thousand Oaks. These are people who voted for W and Arnold. I mean, this is Limbaugh Country. There are probably more defense contractors per square mile than anywhere outside the Washington Beltway. They are fiscally conservative Republicans, for the most part, and it just makes fiscal sense not to put salt in water if you’re going to have to pay to take it out later. Where have I heard that before?

Oh, yes! It was me! But as good as this letter is, it’s not what I want to talk about. It’s the article that this letter is about. You have to do a little digging to find that. I’ve done that for you. Click here.

It’s the Water Conditioning and Purification International Online November 2006 issue. It’s an article called Solving Public Pool Water Quality Problems Forever! by Bill Kent. The first paragraph of the article points out that the recent outbreak of Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI) are disturbing and bring to light the need for facility managers to “investigate regenerative chlorination systems”. That’s it. That’s the last time RWI is mentioned. The rest of the article is a straight sales job on salt chlorine generation. I really encourage you to read it and see if you don’t agree. Whether you’re pro or anti salt, just read it and you’ll see. Especially if you read the heavily footnoted and referenced Swimming Pool Disinfection: Techniques and Pitfalls by David M. Bonnick, the other feature article in the November 2006 issue.

There is a sharp contrast. One is a research paper, the other a marketing brochure.

But that makes sense. Bill Kent is the President of Team Horner. They probably have the lion’s share of the commercial application of salt systems in the US through their AutoPilot commercial chlorine systems. Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of this. This is America, and Bill’s got every right to submit articles about the technology he believes in. And he has a right, in the future, to point to the article he wrote and have folks Google it for more information. And now, when they do, they’ll also get this blog, and a link to Bob Carson’s warning about chloride-rich waste streams and parades of tanker trucks and a link to the YouTube clip of the WFAA report on Why Salt Sucks.

I bring this all up as nothing more than a counter balance to this kind of thing. This is an old article, written in 1984, and dug up by the same Bill Kent in 1993. He slapped a cover letter on the article and called it a "Research Report". Now, it's not just my opinion that this thing is just an article. The last page of the article says, "This article is based on a technical report prepared by Mr. D. S. Novak of ELTECH Systems Corporation titled 'Review of Factors Influencing Corrosion in Swimming Pools,' June 20, 1984." But the technical report is nowhere to be found.

Eltech owned the salt system Lectranator back then, which was blowing through stainless steel filter tanks like they were butter. So, they bought some "research" that said, "it's not the salt, it's the unstabilized chlorine". Then, Eltech sold Lectranator to Olin and Olin sold it to Team Horner, and they got the research along with the machines. They renamed Lectranator AutoPilot in 1995, which makes a casual reader not put the two and two together and see that this article is just Eltech saying way back in the early eighties that salt wasn't eating up stainless steel filter tanks. Since then, we've all learned, even the biggest pro-salties, that you don't put salt systems on pools with stainless steel filter tanks.

But this flawed little piece of "research" keeps coming up in forums, being presented as "proof" of a mitigating circumstance for why salt is okay today, and why if you're seeing problems with your salt pool, it's probably the unstabilized chlorine and not the salt that's doing the damage. The whole idea that this article is presented without making the underlying research available makes even hosting it a dubious decision, if you ask me. Especially in light of the fact that it was recently re-introduced to the forums by a representative of AutoPilot.

And you can read on countless threads on these forums about "the well documented research of how lower stabilizer levels will result in much higher corrosivity from chlorine", and if you ever bother to ask about the source of this well documented research, they just point back to that little three page article.

And I just don't want the same thing to happen with this most recent article about RWI's. I don't want, ten years from now, to see that article referenced as "the research done in 2006 that proves SCG's effectiveness in fighting RWI's".

And now, after I post this and the search engine wordbots have crawled through this piece and indexed all of these words and all of these links, no one will ever be able to talk about those things again without this blog piece being part of the discussion, too.

God! I love the Internet!

You should all try it. It's just about the only democracy we have left.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Call It Hubris

One of my favorite authors is Mark Twain. He was truly a great American and a great American writer. And just as much as he is probably our greatest writer, he was one of our greatest social commentators and satirists. It is probably that vein of irreverence for convention, shot through everything he wrote, that makes me love his writing so much. He, like most great Americans, was very critical of the America that he saw, because in his heart, he envisioned the America that could be.

It is easy to understand why he was so critical of his world. He grew up in the age of slavery. He ran away out West to avoid fighting in the Civil War. He lived through the assassination of the President, and the awful Reconstruction period that followed. He watched the Gilded Age flourish, where a few families – like JP Morgan and the Rockefellers – amassed the greatest fortunes ever seen on the planet through the devices of sweat shop labor and overpowering financial manipulations. So, it is no small wonder that, in his later years, when he began to tour and lecture, he joked incessantly about the smallness of great men and the crookedness of their most forthright pronouncements.

He had no great love for politicians and big business. The love he had left was for humanity and for his country and for the unachieved potential that he saw for it to do more than make the rich richer.

He died poor. That is usually the way of it, though. There’s hardly ever a buck in telling the Truth, or even pointing people in the general direction of the Truth. Because the Truth is kind of like taking medicine. It’s not always pleasant. It’s not always something you’re going to want to do, or see, or hear. You see, people will build a million constructs in their mind for denying the Truth if it even looks like medicine, or if it means that they have to surrender even one of their guilty pleasures.

Like people who smoke. Those of us who don’t smoke know that they’re not only killing themselves but they’re killing us too with their second hand smoke. I can hear the collective mouse click as 21% of you – the smokers out there – close this window. Some of you – those of you who still smoke in your homes – are killing your children, too.

But they still smoke. They don’t want to swallow the medicine of Truth that says that smoking causes cancer and a boatload of other diseases for them and for the people around them.

With smokers, at least they have an excuse, They’re addicted to a drug, and so when they defend their Right To Smoke it’s not really them talking. It’s the Drug. It’s like that Crackhead begging change in traffic with the Will Work For Food sign and all those good reasons why he can’t give up The Rock today. The next time you’re stuck at the light listening to his jibberish, nodding your head and trying to roll up your window, think about the arguments your friends give you for why they still smoke.

Except for the shabby clothes and that you smelled him coming, there’s really not a lot of difference, is there? Wait a minute. Not a good comparison. I can smell cigarette smokers coming, too. That’s something else I don’t think smokers are aware of; how much they positively reek when they’ve just stubbed out a cigarette. Cigarette smokers always stink. But, man, right after they’ve put one out. Whew!

Or like people who drive V-8 powered, third and fourth row seating SUV’s. Yes. I know. Another huge mouse click just occurred. But seriously, unless you’re an unreformed Mormon (another, albeit smaller, mouse click), with three wives and 12 kids, I don’t get mega-row seating. I don’t get the need to be that environmentally unconscious just so you can take your 2.3 kids to McDonalds.

I don’t think it would bother me so much if those of you who do it would just say, “I do it because I want to and because I don’t care about the US being a nation dependent on oil from regions that are often hostile to the US, and I don’t care about the ever increasing gasoline prices, and I don’t care that all the legislation from the 1970’s that put safety bumpers on autos is for naught because every one of those cars fits UNDER my SUV come crash time and I know that I’m gypping everybody by taking the Heavy Equipment tax deduction on my luxury laden, $75,000 pimped out SUV. I just don’t care. I want my SUV”, instead of saying, “I feel safer and I think that global warming is a myth”.

Because then you’re starting to sound like the Crackhead with 35 Very Good Reasons Why I Can’t Quit Today.

And those of you who see The Truth in what I’m saying know that you can’t reason with them. Not with any of them. It doesn’t matter what proofs you show them. It doesn’t matter how much evidence you amass. It doesn’t matter how many people are saying the same thing you are.

Because you’re screwing with their Comfort Zone. Once someone’s adopted a toy or a gadget and likes the way it looks, feels, smells, tastes, works, etc., you might as well hang up having a rational conversation with them about The Side Effects.

Like with SUV’s. One side effect is we may have to send some of our children, as they’re just leaving their teen years and before we invest any real money or effort in educating or training them, to fight and possibly die in some far away country that just happens to be strategically located over one of the world’s largest remaining oil reserves. You may not like the way that sounds, but it’s a pretty fair summation of how our society fights it’s wars, and, generally speaking, who fights them, and why they’re fought. You can jump down my throat with all kinds of arguments about the security of our nation and defending freedom and democracy and such, but before you know it, you’re sounding a lot like our friends who smoke cigarettes.

Getting back to cigarettes for a minute. We’ve all seen the movies with Russell Crow and Al Pacino and that new one with Aaron Eckhert, Thank You For Smoking. We all know now that the tobacco companies lied about the link from cigarette smoking to cancer for about 40 or 50 years. We just laughed our asses off at a comedy movie portraying that very fact. According to the World Health Organization, “worldwide, some 5 million persons die from tobacco related illnesses every year”. We all know that corporate America lied to us and as a result, millions and millions of people have died.

And I know that some of you out there who read this blog regularly are thinking, “Oh, God, the Pool Guy’s really flipped. He’s going to compare salt systems to the Cigarette Death Merchants.”

Not at all. But I want to point out that when it comes to your best interest, there’s no one that’s going to legislate your toys. Nobody’s watching. The government isn’t in the business of protecting you. If they were, the CEO’s of the major cigarette manufacturers would have been prosecuted as accomplices in the deaths of all of those people for all of the years that the cigarette companies sat on that data.

But nothing happened. All of their stocks are still a Good Investment. My Country Tis of Thee, huh?

So, empirically and historically, there’s more evidence to support my argument that salt systems are bad for your pool and that they’re lying to you when they say that I’m a crackpot than there is that corporate America is fully disclosing everything they know about the long term damage that salt and the electrolysis process will do to your pool.

Call me crazy. Go ahead.

It is the craziest thing to me that we venerate the Truth Tellers many years later after we can no longer deny that they were, in fact, Telling the Truth.

Like Mark Twain. In his day, lots of people thought Mark Twain was a smart-aleck who was bad for business. It turns out he was a smart-aleck who was bad for business and he was Right. Being Right, and funny, is why we admire him now.

Here’s a real polarizing example that’ll get a lot of mouses clicking:

Michael Moore. So many people hate him. But just a few years ago he made a little movie that said that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and that our soldiers, returning from honorable duty in a dishonorable war, were being treated even more dishonorably at Walter Reed Hospital. He even showed video footage of the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

And everybody looked at that video footage, evidence of our wounded soldiers suffering in obscure silence, and said he was a crackpot…

Three years later, everybody knows that intelligence about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq was falsified, and now after three years, there’s finally been a Congressional Investigation into the horrible conditions our wounded troops have had to endure at Walter Reed Hospital.

So, everybody will keep hating him, and then, as more and more of what he documents proves to be true – re: Roger and Me, Fahrenheit 9/11, etc. – then he’ll be viewed more and more like Twain.

But history shows us that while the Truth Tellers are Telling the Truth, we listen to the Fast Buck Artists instead. We listen to the same Corporate America that’s screwed us more times than we can count, and we listen to the government that does as little as possible to regulate them.

And I think a lot of it is because they’re really just telling us what we want to hear. Corporate America sells us a Cool Gadget and tells us there’s no Down Side, and we want to believe they’re telling the truth because we just love this Gadget. The government doesn’t really have a dog in the fight as long as the consumer appears to be happy taking their screwing, and even when the evidence starts to mount up, the Glacier’s Pace of government proceedings ensures that the Corporate Guys will be able to keep the consumer bent over out behind the barn for quite a while longer. Throw in some off-election year apathy, some on-election year campaign contributions and you’ve got a near endless cycle of never quite getting around to dealing with the problem. Usually, people just stop using the Cool Gadget because it turns out to suck so much that it gets classified as Totally Uncool, and by then, Corporate America has moved on to the next indispensable Cool Gadget.

Remember polybutylene plumbing?

Remember that spray-in foam insulator that was all the rage for older, uninsulated homes back in the seventies that later turned out to gas off CFC’s and formaldehyde fumes into your home, making it pretty much uninhabitable instead of just cold?

Remember the Radium Girls? Hundreds of women who painted the luminescence on the numbers at the US Radium Corporation clock factory in Orange, New Jersey? This wasn’t some third world barrio that could be easily ignored. This is Tony Soprano Land were talking about.

The glow-in-the-dark luminescence these women painted on the clock faces was called Undark. “They were required to paint delicate lines with fine-tipped brushes, applying the Undark to the tiny numbers and indicator hands of wristwatches. After a few strokes a brush tended to lose its shape, so the women's managers encouraged them to use their lips and tongues to keep the tips of the camel hair brushes sharp and clean. The glowing paint was completely flavorless, and the supervisors assured them that rosy cheeks would be the only physical side effect to swallowing the radium-laced pigment.”

They all died. Their children, and children’s children all had related health issues. The first woman who suspected that her problems might have been from radium exposure sought professional help. A “specialist from Columbia University named Frederick Flynn asked to examine her. Flynn declared her to be in fine health. It would be some time before anyone discovered that Flynn was not a doctor, nor was he licensed to practice medicine, rather he was a toxicologist on the US Radium payroll. A ‘colleague’ who had been present during the examination– and who had confirmed the healthy diagnosis– turned out to be one of the vice-presidents of US Radium.”

Remember when Sears – the name you trust – got busted by the state of California for systematically and routinely performing unnecessary auto repairs? The California report stated that there was every indication that the fraud extended beyond the borders of their state and was endemic in the Sears auto repair system.

Remember Enron? They were billed at the Smartest Guys In The Room wherever they went. And they were. All but a few of them kept most of the money they stole.

You don’t really need a link for Enron, do you? I mean, there’s no one who wants to dispute that those Enron cowboys should have been shot and then hanged, is there?

But we’re not talking about a major plumbing manufacturer, or the radium company that still does business with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission today after changing names and owners enough times to throw off the legal responsibility for the two toxic Superfund sites it’s created over the years. Go to BACKGROUND and read the 3rd and 4th paragraphs down.

And we’re not talking about a household name like Sears, or a major Energy Company like Enron, one who routinely advised the Executive Branch of our government on our National Energy Policy.

No. We’re talking about Salt Reps selling Salt Boxes in the Swimming Pool Business.

Don’t you feel better now? Of course nothing’s wrong with your salt system. People Making Money in the Pool Biz Have Never Been Wrong Before…

I mean, come on. You’re paying as much as $2,000 for technology that you can get for $145 from Cabela’s.

And you don’t think there’s something up? You don’t think you’re being screwed like a stump-tied goat?

Okay fine…

So, my advice to all you folks who already own one of those two thousand dollar salt system and are bothered by what I say; stop reading my blog. Why aggravate yourself? If you like the way the water feels and you think your salt rep is just a swell guy, then drink up. Enjoy the Kool Aid. If it doesn’t work out and you start to notice that things are beginning to fall apart, then you can come back and read through the archives. Whatever problem you’re having I’ve probably talked about it, or will talk about as salt problems continue to present themselves.

And to all you Salties out there, all you folks whose job it is to try to keep your foot on the throat of guys like me; I admit to the failing of hubris in thinking that I could come onto your turf and talk sense in a place that allows the posting of nonsense in response, or that I could find a level playing field in a place that touts a discount on salt systems as a “member benefit”. I realized I was in the wrong place when I found myself
stooping to answer the question; if salt systems are destroying swimming pools, then as a pool serviceman, why am I not happy with that?

Because I don’t work at Sears. That’s why.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

You probably heard that we’re getting a bit of rain here in Dallas. Thirty-six inches so far this year, most of it in the past couple of months. Our average is thirty-four for the whole year. So, we’re pretty tired of seeing the five day forecast of rain, followed by rain, then some rain, and more rain, and then even more on top of that. For me, it’s not so much the getting wet that bugs me.

It’s buying all that salt and stabilizer for my pools.

Let me give you an example. Let’s take a 16,000 gallon lap pool / play pool. You know, the kind that are about five and a half, maybe six feet at the main drains at the center of the pool, sloping up to three feet at either end. Lots of folks call them Volleyball Pools. I call them easy to clean and less water to sanitize. They’re my favorite. So, let’s take that type as our example. It’s got an average depth of between four and four and a quarter feet.

Now, put thirty-six inches of rain on top of it, and add a tile line drain, a pretty common feature these days on newer pools, to keep that water level right smack at the middle of the tile.

If you have a salt system that needs around 3200 ppm to operate, you’ve added an extra 300 lbs. of salt and an extra 6 lbs of stabilizer to your pool so far this year here in Dallas.

If you have a salt system that needs 4000 ppm, you’ve added an extra 375 lbs. of salt and 8 lbs. of stabilizer to your pool.

That may not sound like a huge burden to you, but I have about 50 of these puppies on service. We’ve humped an extra 17,500 lbs of salt from our trucks to our pools so far this year. At wholesale prices, that’s an extra $2,187.50 I’ve spent on salt and an extra $400 I’ve spent on stabilizer. And like I said, that’s rock bottom wholesale pricing.

Why not just wait until the rains are all over with and then top off the pools? Well, the Zodiac LM-2 manual on pdf page 14 says it best; “Note: Operating the LM-2 at reduced salt levels may shorten the life of the cell”, and then again on pdf page 17; “The salt concentration should normally be around 4000 ppm, but should never be allowed to fall below 3000 ppm, as this can reduce the life of the cell electrodes.”

And too, it says; “Adding fresh water or rainfall to the pool dilutes the salt concentration.” [emphasis mine]

But wait! What about these reports all over the internet, all these guys posting in all these forums, swearing up and down that they never, ever add salt to their pools? They swear that once they load that first 15 or so bags to get to optimum salt level, that they maybe add one or two bags a year, tops. And what about all those sales brochures that talk about how the salt “never goes away”?

Perhaps their being less than forthcoming, shall we say. Or perhaps those forums are overrun with Salt Reps parading as happy salt pool owners. Because it just ain't true. Take it from the guy who humps the salt.

Unless, of course, these people making these claims all live in Los Angeles. They’ve only had three inches of rain there in the last twelve months. That would make these fantastic claims of never adding salt nearly true.

So, that’s a good rule of thumb. Salt systems are cheaper and should be encouraged for use in drought stricken regions of the world. That’s exactly what you need in drought stricken countries; 16,000 gallon reservoirs of undrinkable water.

But for contrast, let’s take the wettest place in the world; Mawslynram, in Meghalaya State, India. It gets 467 ½ inches per annum. To run a Zodiac at optimum levels, you’d need to add an extra 4,977 lbs of salt and an extra 98.1 lbs of stabilizer each year. If they’re buying the salt at Home Depot and the stabilizer at Leslie’s, that’s an extra $622 in salt and $441.50 in stabilizer.

I wonder if they have Home Depot and Leslie’s in Mawslynram? Well, they must have Wal Marts. Knock 20% off and we’ll call it even.

Here in the US, Wynooches, Oxbow, Washington once got 184.56 inches of rain in 1931. If they’d had salt systems back then, it would have meant an extra 1,964 lbs. of salt and an extra 39 lbs. of stabilizer.

But let’s get real. Let’s talk about present day average rainfalls in present day average American cities.

Mobile, Alabama, at 67 inches average annual rainfall would mean an extra 713 lbs. of salt and an extra 14 lbs. of stabilizer just to keep up with the runoff.

Pensacola, Florida, at 65 inches average annual rainfall would need 692 lbs. of salt and 13.6 lbs. of stabilizer.

West Palm Beach, Florida, at 63 inches average annual rainfall would need 670 lbs. of salt.

Port Arthur, Texas, at 61 inches average annual rainfall, would need 650 lbs of salt, just to keep up with the rain.

Even Tuscon, Arizona – pretty much the holder of the title of Driest State in the US for More Centuries than We’ve Been Here – is going to need an extra 128 lbs. each year to stay ahead of their skimpy 12 inches of annual rainfall.

And these totals don’t include splash-out or backwash. Remember, too, that they’re all based on that little old 16,000 volleyball pool. If you’re feeding a 30,000 gallon deep diver, your mileage may vary.

But let’s get wild here. Let’s say you’ve got that volleyball pool right here in Dallas, Texas, with our paltry thirty-four inches a year, and your builder sold you on that Mineral Springs system. You know, the Aqua Rite private labeled for Bio Guard? And let’s say you drink the marketing Kool-Aid and never ask a single question and always buy your salt – I mean, your proprietary blend of minerals – from your local Bio Guard dealer to keep the salt – I mean the mineral level – up to snuff. At $34.99 for a thirty pound bag, and one bag required per 1,000 gallons of water, and 10,660 gallons of runoff from the rain, you’re going to spend an extra $373.00 on “minerals” for your pool. Move that pool to Mobile, Alabama, and the price, like the annual rainfall, nearly doubles.

But, so what? Everybody still likes the way the water feels and they’re going to keep using them darn salt boxes no matter how much it rains. Right?

And therein lies the moral of this story: If the average modern pool, equipped with a tile line drain to help maintain proper water level in the pool, is getting 10,000 gallons a year of runoff, and if there are 7.5 million residential pools in the US, and if what they say is true and 4 out of 10 pools being built these days are salt pools, then when the salt market zeniths, we’ll have 3 million salt pools dumping 30 billion gallons of 3,200 ppm water into our ground water, our storm drains, our sewer systems, our creeks, our rivers and our reservoirs. Diluting 30 billion gallons of salt water to below the level of taste (250 ppm) will create 384 billion gallons of water right at the level of taste, before any other salt contamination is taken into account. Salt contamination like water softeners, road salt, manufacturing processes, etc.

The average person ought to drink 8, 8 ounce glasses of water a day. That’s a half a gallon of water. That’s 182.5 gallons a year. 30 billion gallons of water represents enough to provide drinking water for 164,438,356 people a year. But if it’s salty, they can’t drink it.

Now all those numbers are only if the number of salt pools keeps growing at the rate of 4 out of 10. If the Salt Guys have their way, and more success, it’ll be higher, and all these numbers will go up.

There’s tons of studies that show ground water chloride contamination from the use of road salts in Canada and the northern US. Just Google it and you’ll see that what I’m saying is true.

When you read those reports you’ll come across this term that the pointy head guv guys who write these environmental studies use when referring very matter-of-factly to the area for several hundred yards on either side of the road bed on those salted roads. They call it the “Salt Kill Zone”.

That’s because it often kills the native plants and they have to be replaced by “salt resistant” species. But even then, you can see that we need to use the salt in that application. Even though it’s creating these dead zones and destroying the road beds and infrastructure – road salt causes about $3,940,000,000 a year in road and infrastructure damage here in the US – if we don’t use it we won’t be able to get around. Commerce will come to a screeching halt every time there’s ice on the road. But salt pools…

Oh, yeah, I remember. It’s so your kids won’t get red eyes.

What truly blows me away is how virulently opposed to this idea of salt contamination of the ground and groundwater is to otherwise normal, intelligent people. I ran into one comment at a forum that read, “Our deck-o-drain drains out to the side of our [sic] directly into a small flower bed. Out of all our new plants, it is probably doing the best, so you'd be hard pressed to convince me that a little low salinity water is bad for plants - let alone ‘toxic waste’”. This comment is from a very bright, able guy and even though everything ever published in the history of mankind says that salt’s not good for plants, he goes by the anecdotal evidence in his back yard.

How does that old wive's tail go about how do you kill a tree? Drill holes in the roots and pack the holes with salt. Right?

Or another comment; “Can't drain it out to the perfectly landscaped property, killed trees, TOXIC WASTE???? All from Salt?? Come on… Someone should probably delete [this] post as to not cloud a newbie's judgment with this load.....”

People want their toys and they don’t want to hear anything that might have to make them feel bad about enjoying them.

You guys go ahead. Enjoy those salt pools. And don’t worry about The Bill.

Like most things these days, your kids can pay for it later.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The 2.6 Million Dollar Salt System

Someone sent me an interesting news clip last week. I’d tell you where I got it, but it came from a source pitching another alternate sanitation technology. And if I cited them, then all you guys who think I’m just a shill for some other pool gadget or the chlorine tablet manufacturers would point to that and say, “See? See? The Pool Guy’s a whore just like us.”

And my only response to that is to say; I know you are, but what am I?

The news clip was just a couple line item. When I first read it, I thought I’d post it in the next blog piece and be done with it. But then, I started Googling, and that’s a lot like falling down a rabbit hole. One thing leads to another and to another and another and pretty soon a picture begins to emerge. And so it becomes a whole story that doesn’t start with the couple line news clip. The news clip comes about three quarters of the way through the story, as it turns out.

It starts like this: On October 29th, 2004, the City of Calgary, Alberta, Canada posted a news release titled “Southland Leisure Centre Pool Switches to Salt Generated Chlorine”. Here’s a link to the press release.

Now, pay attention to that date, okay? That’s less than three years ago.

And here’s how the press release started:

CALGARY - A safer alternative for Pool Water Sanitization.

Did you know that according to the Salt Institute, there are more than 14,000 uses for salt - from flavouring pheasant to mummifying Egyptian Pharos [sic]?

Did you also know that salt offers a cleaner, safer alternative to using chlorine gas to sanitize public swimming pool water?

As part of its annual maintenance the Southland Leisure Centre is offering patrons a positive replacement to chlorine gas, by installing a new chlorine generating system, via the use of salt

Geez, doesn’t that sound like something a Salt Rep would write? I can just hear the phone conversation that led up to that opener. “Hey there, Salt Guy. I’m writing this darn press release for the new pool salt system and I need a snazzy opening. Howzabout you fax me something spiffy, eh?”… I’m not sure they say snazzy and spiffy up in Calgary, but I do know they say, eh. A lot. Anyway, you get the drift.

The press release goes on to tout all the normal BS that we’ve come to expect from Salt Reps when they lie about their systems. Like:

The conversion will be much safer for staff, and save money over time through fewer chemical costs”.

Which is just so not true. While chlorine gas isn’t something most of us even want to fool with, we all know it is by far the cheapest conventional method of chlorinating a pool. If you want to argue that, argue it with Bob Lowry, who has actually written The Book on chlorine. He also wrote a booklet, Guide to Chlorine, about the different types of chlorine for Service Industry News many, many years ago. It’s on the Required Reading List for IPSSA membership and it’s the source of many of the questions on the IPSSA Water Chemistry Certification Test. In fact, that three book set that he wrote are where ALL of the questions for that test come from. So, if you want to say I’m wrong, then I’m wrong in some pretty good company. Wouldn’t you say?

Hence, it’s a foregone conclusion, ergo an accepted industry standard, that it doesn’t get any cheaper than using chlorine gas. And while the Pro-Salties will clamor that all you need for a salt system is a little salt when you fill it up and a little acid every once in a while, they always leave out that part about buying new salt cells every 2 to 4 years. Imagine how many thousands of dollars it would take to replace all of the salt cells on all of the pools at the Southland Leisure Centre every couple or so years. But that, as we shall see later, is the least of their worries.

The press release goes on to say “The reduction of hazardous materials is also better for the environment, and completely removes the chance of a dangerous chlorine leak.”

They didn’t mention how installing the salt system is really just a hazard trade-off. Salt systems introduce the chance of dangerous hydrogen gas explosions, like the one that occurred at the Fremantle Leisure Centre in January 1997, when there was a buildup of hydrogen gas and an explosion, an accident so significant that a 1997 accident report published by the Australian government cited it thus; “The most significant incident for the year occurred at the Fremantle Leisure Centre where a hydrogen gas explosion forced the evacuation of approximately 600 people from the premises during the busy summer holiday period.

Here’s a link to the whole report.

and here’s a link to a follow-up safety announcement where they were still talking about it five years later.

Of course, the Pro-Salties will be clashing spears on shields again here, saying that I exaggerate the accidents that occur with exploding salt systems, although the internet is littered with reports and anecdotes of Salt Water Chlorine Generator explosions. But it’s alright for them to rave about “dangerous chlorine leaks” when it comes to chlorine gas.

Sure, that’s fair.

The other part of the statement that’s so bogus is about the reduction of hazardous materials being better for the environment. They made a big deal about this same thing in Calgary Transit System’s annual Envirosystem Report, where they touted the Leisure Center’s conversion to salt as this huge step forward in improving the air quality in all of Calgary. As if they were having chlorine gas leaks a mile a minute – or I guess it would be a kilometer a minute in Canada, eh? Here’s the report.

Click on Envirosystem Report 2004 and scroll down to pdf page 9, report page 7, and read, “Recreation eliminated chlorine gas for pool sanitation at the Southland Leisure Centre. The new disinfection system generates chlorine from salt. The salt eliminates the potential for a chlorine gas release on site and the hazards associated with exposure.”

Then scroll down to pdf page 13, report page 11 and see where they enumerate it again as one of their positive steps forward in eliminating the deadly hazards of chlorine gas emissions.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My…

Then they turn right around, in the section of the report titled “Managing Our Impact – Water”, and talk about the potentially disastrous effects of road salt and how “ROADS partnered with Parks and Wastewater to build the 194th Avenue Roads Maintenance Depot to address Environment Canada’s requirement to reduce concentrations of chloride from road salt that could affect plants, aquifers and watersheds. The Depot uses facilities and practices to minimize wind erosion, run-off and leaching of road salt products. The site includes two large tent structures on an impermeable base, for storing road salt materials. A lined containment pond was constructed adjacent to the storage area to provide emergency containment in the event of a release. Ongoing environmental monitoring is conducted at the site. Parks reviewed the Biophysical Impact Assessment for the site and assisted with planting appropriate trees, shrubs and site vegetation. Wastewater assisted in the design and regulatory approvals of the runoff catchment features.”

You see, this salt stuff is so bad for the environment that they had to build a lined containment pond to protect against an accidental release of… Hey, wait a minute… They used those same words back in Air Quality to talk about the deadly threat of an accidental chlorine gas release. And they fixed the chlorine gas thing by replacing it with salt… Hmmm… It must just be something that only Canadian Civil Servants can understand. It must be so deep that I’m just not able to grasp it. Let me review all this stuff again…

Oh, here it is. I found it. Go back to the press release. This explains everything.

Although the centre will use salt to sanitize the pool, the water itself will not technically be salt water.”

Well, that’s A Horse of a Different Color. Because then, when they need to dump their pools for routine maintenance, they won’t have to worry about dumping that water into a containment tank or anything. Since it’s not salt water, they’ll be able to dump it right on the ground.

Okay. So let’s give ‘em kudos. They're not as think as we dumb they are. A little smoke and mirrors and viola, they get environmental credit both ways. And after all, what’s more important? Saving the Environment? Or The Appearance of Saving the Environment?

Now. let’s fast forward two years and seven months, and this headline appears in the Calgary Herald; “City left with pool’s $2.6M tab”. Here’s the link.

The story starts off, “Council is being asked to approve $2.6 million in emergency funds to fix the wave pool at Southland Leisure Centre, after recreation officials discovered a switch to salt water has corroded the filtration systems.”

There’s one thing to correct here. It’s not the filtration systems that got screwed up by the salt. That’s just an indicator of the depth of knowledge that most reporters have about swimming pools. Whatever goes wrong, it’s the filter. Ask them to point out the filter on an equipment pad and 99 out of a 100 won’t get it right. More correctly, it’s the whole damn building that houses the indoor wave pool that’s corroding. You see, they foolishly made everything out of metal. They thought that it would be okay, though, because even though they were pouring salt into the pool, they weren’t actually using salt water. The 2004 press release said so. Because anybody with an ounce of sense would have known that the wave pool was going to agitate the water and aerate it and create a salt spray – hmmm… there’s a funny expression; Salt Spray. Where have I heard that used before? Oh, yes, I remember now; as in ocean waves crashing against the shore and creating a Salt Spray.

But since they weren’t using real salt water, they didn’t think about it. “ ‘What's happening is, in a wave pool situation -- which no one could have really anticipated -- the salt is going airborne as a result of the wave action,’ said Ron Krell, manager of Southland Leisure Centre. ‘We're getting a coating of salt in the leisure centre equipment.’”

Which no one could have really anticipated…” That’s Civil Servant for, “It didn’t occur to us and the salesman never brought it up, so we spent your money to buy this overpriced albatross and now we want more of your money to fix the damage it has wrought.”

Because, pardon me for pointing it out, but anyone who’s walked on an ocean beach where there’s even the slightest wave action can tell you that when they finished their walk their lips tasted like salt, from – once again – the Salt Spray.

And that’s the part about journalism that blows me away, and I think it’s more than half the reason we perceive that journalists are in bed – in the figurative sense, of course – with the politicians and the bureaucrats they interview. Here’s this woman, Colette Derworiz, interviewing this guy, Ron Krell, and he makes this CYA statement “a wave pool situation -- which no one could have really anticipated -- the salt is going airborne as a result of the wave action,” and she just dutifully writes it in her notebook, without asking the obvious follow up, “Well, have you never been to the beach, Ron? Come on, fella. That’s a pretty lame defense against 2.6 million dollars in damages. Surely you’ve got something better for us than that.”

Or, she could have asked, “Didn’t your Salt Reps warn you about this? Didn’t they bring up the point about the salt spray? Had they never been to the beach, either?”

Or, she could have asked, “Is the Southland Leisure Centre’s wave pool the only one that’s been affected this way? Are there any other wave pools around the country or in the US suffering the same sort of damage?”

Or, she could have asked, “What is the Salt System manufacturers position on this? What do they have to say about their system causing 2.6 million dollars worth of damage in 2 years and seven months?”

But she didn’t.

So, Ron dodged all those bullets. But still, he had to go, hat in hand, to the City Council and ask for the 2.6 million beans to fix up the damage that the wholly unanticipated salt spray had caused in a little over two and a half years. Say it slow so you get the full effect; two million six hundred thousand dollars. Even in Canadian dollars, that’s a buttload of money. In fact, that’s $2,760.00 Canadian every day since they converted to salt.

Well, poop. There goes the all the money they saved converting to salt.

Back to Colette Derworiz’ report in the Calgary Herald:

But the committee members refused to approve the expenditure, saying there wasn't enough information to make a decision. ‘This is a lot of money,’ Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart told the committee.

Another alderman, Gord Lowe, said he wouldn't support the spending until council receives a detailed cost analysis, a full history of the conversion to salt water, a legal opinion on the issue and a report on whether the salt has damaged any other parts of the pool, including the cement.

‘I think there's a disease, and we're looking at a very big symptom here,’ he said…. According to Wednesday's report, the wave pool's system started corroding after the installation of a salt filtration system in November 2004

I bet you can guess my favorite part. It’s the “I think there’s a disease, and we’re looking at a very big symptom here”. Gee, that sounds like what I’ve been saying for a long time. And I’ve been called the vilest things by some of the biggest greedheads in our business for saying it.


Did I mention that I was right?

So, there’s that.

Anyway, it turns out that the Calgary Council did finally agree to shell out the money to repair the salt damage to the wave pool and it’s enclosure. Here’s the link to that story.

Here’s how it went: “Council approved the repair Monday after receiving a detailed cost breakdown, a full history of the conversion and a closed-door update from the law department on any recourse for council to consider.”

Once again, I bet you can spot my favorite part. It was the “closed-door update from the law department on any recourse for council to consider”.

So, to recap, this is how it looks like it all went down, and let me say up front that this is speculation on my part. I’m filling in the blanks here. I tried to get a hold of Ron Krell, the Southland Leisure Centre manager, and find out how it all really went down, but, as they say in the newspapers, my “call was not immediately returned”. So, here goes.

A Salt Rep came along and told the folks in Calgary how great salt would be for their indoor pools. The Salt Rep said his company had tons of experience converting Leisure Centres just like theirs to salt all over the world. He probably didn’t mention the one in Fremantle that exploded. But like I said, I’m guessing.

They told them that it was going to be expensive up front because they needed lots and lots of commercial grade Salt Water Chlorine Generators to chlorinate that much water – the Wave Pool weighs in at one million liters, which is 264,000 gallons in the Lower Forty-Eight - but it would be worth it when the big bucks started rolling in from all the money they were going to save by not buying chlorine gas. I know it’s hard not to laugh at that part, but we must do our best.

Then, when corrosion started showing up, the Salt Reps probably tried to blame it on low stabilizer levels in the water, because that’s what they do every place else. But then, the janitor probably told them that when he wipes down the railings and such, he ends up with a salty residue on his rag and the light went off in everybody’s head at the same time. At least in the heads of all of those who had ever been to the beach and seen a real wave.

“It’s the salt!” they cried, and started casting about, searching for the Salt Rep, hoping to catch him and maybe drag him behind their trucks for a while. But he was nowhere to be found, since he was paid in full. And so they had a meeting to decide who was going to tell the Calgary City Council that they were going to have to spend an extra 2.6 million dollars on the Wave Pool this year, and Ron got the short straw.

Now, the City Fathers, seeing how badly Ron and his crew got screwed by this Salt Rep, are looking at their options to sue the crap out of him – or her, in that PC gender-neutral sort of way. I mean, it’s a cinch that the Salt Rep isn’t going to write them a check for the damages. And neither is the Salt System manufacturer. Because that would set a precedent, wouldn’t it?

Incidentally, there’s a picture of the Wave Pool at the Southland Leisure Centre. You can find it here.

Warning: It’s nearly a 10 meg pdf file and takes a while to load.

It’s the SP&S swimming pool supply catalog. The picture of the Wave Pool is on pdf page 48. You can see there’s lots of surfaces to corrode. It was provided to SP&S courtesy of the Southland Leisure Centre. I don’t know why the Wave Pool’s picture is in this catalog. Maybe Southland is one of SP&S’s customers… Do you think? No… Could it be?

Gosh, I don’t know. And it wouldn’t be fair to speculate on something that important.

Because whoever sold this salt system without thinking about the wave action and the salt spray is in for the skinning of a lifetime. $2.6 million dollars worth of a skinning. Not to mention the skinning still to come from all the other indoor wave pools they’ve probably put it on since they did this one.

I’m sorry. I can’t help it. I have to say it.


Another thing that would make this whole situation laughable if it weren’t so sad; Go here.

It’s on the same City of Calgary website that the Enviro report is on. It’s their Water Hardness FAQ’s. I’m going to cut and paste the second FAQ on the page:

What are the health issues surrounding water hardness?

Health Canada has not established drinking water guidelines for hardness because there are no known health effects associated with calcium and magnesium minerals in drinking water. However, conventional softening systems (those which use salts) may not be suitable for people on sodium-restricted diets. It is recommended that consumers thoroughly research the various water softener systems available prior to deciding whether or not to soften their water. Water Softeners should be connected so that the water you are drinking is not softened

So, salt can be bad for your health. And salt is definitely bad for the environment, as evidenced by all the hoops they have to jump through just to keep a couple of piles of salt laying around for road de-icing. But it’s great for swimming pools!


The real shocker is that even after the salt water in the Wave Pool has caused 2.6 million dollars of damage, as far as I can tell by the reports, they’re only going to take the salt system off the Wave Pool and leave it on all the rest of the City’s indoor and outdoor pools.

What’s that old saying? Screw me once, shame on the President… or something like that.

And then, just because I can’t say enough bad things about salt, here’s a delightful little gem of investigative/editorial news reporting:

The Ancaster News, in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada, reported this past Friday, June 29th, 2007 the following news item:

It is likely that the city's Dundas indoor swimming pool (following the very questionable decision to convert the well established disinfection system installed in 1971, to a salt chlorine gnerator which requires a minimum sodium chloride level of 3,000 parts per million) is one of major polluters of the sanitary waste water plant.

Each backwash and water dumping of 20 litres per bather per day as required by provincial codes, not only wastes volumes of clean, filtered, heated, and chemically balanced water; this 'new' system also adds salts far in excess of the maximum levels for chlorides as set out in the City of Hamilton sewage discharge bylaws.
Guess who pays the by-law infraction charges if any are applied?

We are also advised that each of the four cells installed at the Dundas pool cost about $10,000 yearly to replace as well as the electricity to run them.

Backyard pool owners might also become suspects should they install one of the smaller chlorine generators. If it sounds too good to be true....”

This is a follow up to a story that ran the week before, titled “City cracking down on polluter: sewer boss”.

You can read about it here.

The city of Dundas has hired a dozen extra enforcement officers in the last year and a half to enforce the new bylaw limits for harmful volatile organic compounds enacted last August. In the June 22nd article, they talk about their efforts to get companies into compliance without shutting them down, how to work with them to achieve the goal of compliance while still allowing them to operate. It also points out that this approach doesn’t always work:

In the past, compliance agreements have not always led to quick action. The city's lone such existing agreement, for instance, is for Stoney Creek's Taro dumps and has been in place since 1993.

When it was struck, then-owner Philip Services Corp. promised to build a pretreatment plant within 18 months -- predominantly to deal with high chloride levels…

The plant never materialized, Philip went bankrupt, and its successor negotiated a new deal in 2001 that prompted a review of the city's sewer bylaw

Then, the June 29th story points out that the municipal pool is designed to be out of compliance every time it backwashes it’s filters to be in compliance with public health ordinances.

And just like with the Southland wave pool damage, you have to go back and lay the blame at the feet of the company who sold these Salt System to these municipalities. They are ultimately responsible for the damages done and for the environmental laws violated. For them to say, “we didn’t know” is a sorry, sad, worn out excuse, and hardly of any consequence when computing damage claims.

Every week there's yet another story of how salt destroys everything it touches. And every week, the Salt Reps say, "Well, yeah, but that's it. But it's not our fault. We didn't know. Everything else is okay." Until the next story comes out and they say, "Well, yeah, but that's it. We didn't..."

When will we all stop letting them get away with saying, “We didn’t know”?