Sunday, August 26, 2007

This Is Your Polaris Pool Cleaner On Salt

I got an e-mail another Pool Guy the other day. He said, “Hey Pool Guy. What’s the story? You haven’t bashed salt in over two weeks. But my salt pools are still falling apart at warp speed. Case in point:” and he attached a zip file with these photos in it.

This first one shows the remains of the brass inserts that are pressed into the plastic frame of the Polaris 280 so that you can mount your axles onto the frame via stainless steel screws.

The next one shows the Polaris cleaner frame that these brass inserts pulled out of.

This next one shows what one of the axle frame mounts that hadn’t corroded away yet looks like for contrast.

You can see on the first picture that there are remnants of the brass inserts remaining in the holes, and it’s depth matches right up with what you’re seeing on what’s left of those brass inserts in the first picture.

This photo here shows what I think is most interesting. It’s the picture of the two screws and the frame to axle reinforcement plate.

Take a close look at the screw on the left. See how the threads appear to have a brass colored look to them? That’s because they’re coated with brass. Not in that cross-thread, softer metal looses sort of way. In that four years of Galvanic Corrosion sucking off brass electrons and plating the stainless steel with them sort of way. Because this is The Textbook Example of Galvanic Corrosion.

Here’s what Dr. Stephen C. Dexter, Professor of Applied Science and Marine Biology said in an article from the University Delaware Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service MAS NOTES:

“Galvanic corrosion, often misnamed ‘electrolysis,’ is one common form of corrosion in marine environments. It occurs when two (or more) dissimilar metals are brought into electrical contact under water. When a galvanic couple forms, one of the metals in the couple becomes the anode and corrodes faster than it would all by itself, while the other becomes the cathode and corrodes slower than it would alone. Either (or both) metal in the couple may or may not corrode by itself (themselves) in seawater. When contact with a dissimilar metal is made, however, the self-corrosion rates will change: corrosion of the anode will accelerate; corrosion of the cathode will decelerate or even stop."

MAS Notes is a Marine Advisory Service program sponsored by the University of Delaware and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the United States Government.

So, you have a tough decisions to make. Who you gonna believe? The scientists, funded by our government to spend their whole lives studying these types of corrosion mechanisms? Or, your Local Salt Sales Rep?

If you chose B, well, thank you for playing. On your way out, please sign up for our next reality based program called “If I Only Had a Brain”.

And believe me, if it hadn’t coated that stainless screw like that, then when that Whacky Salt Rep who likes to call me names writes in, he’d be able to give me the old, “very interesting, Pool Guy, we’ll need to see the water chemistry records for that pool and for every pool everywhere for the last thirty-five years to make sure that blah, blah, blah, blah….” [read, “so we don’t have to admit any liability for our ever more failing technology.”]

And speaking of Failing Technology, that reminds me to say that I was contacted by the Canadian Broadcasting Company this week. Seems they’re working on a story about why the Wave Pool in Calgary is closed until February and wanted to know what I thought were the reasons. I told them what I thought was going on behind those closed doors with Canadian taxpayer’s dollars, and made sure they knew whose salt system it was that’s installed there so they could get a comment from the manufacturer on why their salt system had done two million six hundred thousand dollars – Yes. That’s right. $2,600,000.00 – worth of damage to the Wave Pool in 2 years and 8 months – Yes. That’s right. Thirty-two months.

But I’m getting off the subject. What afflicts the Wave Pool is just plain old fashioned salt spray corrosion. The kind that’s not supposed to happen in 3,500 parts per million (ppm) salt water because it’s “less than the salinity of a tear” and “ten times lower than the level of salt in seawater”, and a whole bunch of other nonsensical things I could say if I were trying to sell these things instead of reveal the truth about them.

What we’re talking about today is Galvanic Corrosion. Now, don’t confuse that with Stray Current Corrosion. That’s another whole different kind of corrosion that salt water brings to your pool and that kind afflicts those metal things that are tied to the pool’s bonding grid – which is pretty much everything except these automatic cleaners and stainless steel filter tanks and the stainless through rods that hold your DE filters together. Pay close attention the next time you’re cleaning a salt pool’s DE filter that uses those knurled brass screws on the stainless through rods. I bet the screws will be Missing In Action, or on their way to being gone. But on the up side, as Dr. Dexter pointed out, the stainless steel is now actually stronger. Here’s a table that shows how that works:

The Anodic end is the end that deteriorates. Look down the list and find brass. Then look further down the list, toward the Cathodic or Noble end and look for stainless steel. See? First, it lists 300 series and then way down, it lists 400 series stainless steel. In fact, all stainless steels are more Cathodic, or more Noble than brass.

The only comfort in the whole situation is that the Polaris frame has something like a 5 year warranty. So, if you’re lucky, your wheels will fall off before the five years is up. This customer’s did.

But, you know how it is. You start taking a Polaris apart to ship the frame back for exchange, and this is true for any of the Return Side Cleaners, and unless the wheel bearings are pretty new, they’re going to disintegrate in your hands. Then, when you get into the guts of it, you’re probably going to notice that the salt has eaten up the teeth of the driveshaft, like I showed you HERE, and that the driveshaft bearings are welded by corrosion to the driveshaft splines. And, of course, you might as well put on new tires and wheels while you’re into it…

What’s a Mother to do?

Stay away from salt. That’s my advise.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Who You Gonna Call?

Last week I talked about the pool store hustle of dressing Baking Soda up with a smidgen of something else, or by calling it a less familiar name, then selling it as Total Alkalinity (TA) Control so that they could charge usurious prices for it. It was really just a lead-in so I could point out that while charging three or four times the supermarket price for Baking Soda is one thing, the idea of selling plain old salt and a little borate and acids and charging as much as ten times more than the going price is just obscene.

Evan, a frequent contributor to the comments section here at The Pool Biz, wrote to say, “Yes, I have to agree that everything you said is true”. Evan works in a pool store.

The Chem Geek, another frequent contributor to the blog, wrote to say, “If your point is that the pool and spa industry is not fully disclosing and that there are myths and falsehoods spread and that the training is poor, I think that's a given. If you look up the antonym of integrity, you'll probably find this industry.” [emphasis mine… wasn’t that a great line?]

But they both also pointed out, in their own ways, that not everyone in the industry is a Big Fat Liar.

Chem Geek said it directly; “That doesn’t mean, however, that everything an industry person says is wrong.”

Evan took a more circuitous route, by pointing out that everything I said in that blog piece was Been There, Talked About That kinda stuff in his beloved forums, and then launched into a rant about high cyanuric acid (CYA) levels and how the pool chemical manufacturers, particularly Chemtura, are lying about how destructive high CYA levels can be to plaster. And, too, if you have read some of Evan the Waterbear’s posts you’ll see that he’s one of the Good Guy. He’s looked behind the curtain and I believe that he sees the same thing I do; that there’s a bunch of salesmen flipping the levers and spinning the wheels on nearly everything in this industry, and that a technical person with the Correct Answer doesn’t hardly have a chance.

Now, that’s a lot of words to be putting in his mouth, so I encourage you to check back and click on the Comments Section Monday night. I’m sure I’ll have a rebuttal from him by then.

The most pointed and direct rebuttal I got was from a man who runs a large pool construction, service and sales company. His business includes a pool store. Via e-mail he said, “On the TA with higher pH, that is actually required around here (and in many other places) where tablets are the primary sanitizer. In those pools (probably 80% in this part of the world), the tablets constantly cause the TA to decrease and likewise the pH. The boosting with a higher pH TA solves two issues with one dose. As for the price of balancing chemicals: There are clearly some that charge usury fees for common items, but I believe it a little jaded to condemn a reasonable profit in the face of the services provided by our ‘boutique’. When a customer comes in, we greet them (usually by name), talk to them, test their water, help them select just the right product, help them to their car with their stuff, and basically establish a relationship. Those are not things you can find at Loews or Home Depot. Many places sell chemicals to get the water right. The only problem is that they don't have your smarts to select them. In those cases (and it happens all day everyday) the customer comes in from Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Loews, or wherever, and ask us to ‘help them’ get their pool ‘fixed’.”

After reading what he said, I had to admit that he was right. There is a purpose for a Pool Store beyond just being a place for pool cleaners to load up their chemicals and for pool repairmen to drink their morning coffee before heading out on their service calls. What he’s saying is the guys on staff at the pool companies who meet and greet the do-it-yourself customers actually have a purpose in life, and as long as they’re well trained and not driven by the owner to Sell, Sell, Sell, then they can be an asset to the pool owner with the Green Pool who’s out there, wandering from Mass Marketer to Franchise Pool Store to Independent Pool Store seeking the Truth.

Truth is, until I read this guy’s e-mail, I never really had much use for the Retail Guys. First off, they always look so neat and clean. I hate that. And when you listen to them with a customer, they always seem to be talking so knowledgeably about pools without ever having seen anything more than the display model in the back of the store. We called them Shop Pussies in my day. I mean, they didn’t even have a decent tan. How can you take advice from a Pool Guy who doesn’t at least have a good Farmer’s Tan working?

But I get his point that listening to a Shop Pussy who’s at least read the water chemistry books is better than navigating the aisles at the Mass Marketers and asking a Homer to point you in the general direction of the pool supplies. You really do have to know what you’re buying when you go to the Mass Marketers. Let me give you a real life example.

I walked into a backyard this past spring. The owners are in that segment of the pool market who only remember they have a 20,000 gallon pool in their backyard in the spring when the kids start asking, “When can we go swimming?” As usual, they were in desperate need of getting someone to come in and get rid of the algae and debris that a winter’s worth of neglect had allowed to accumulate. I looked over their pool and one of the first things I noticed was a very light copper green patina on the plaster and especially on the soft white rubber tires of their automatic pool cleaner. I turned and asked them, “Do you buy your chlorine tablets at Home Depot?”

The answer was yes.

I’ve seen that same staining on half a dozen do-it-yourselfer’s pools, and every time I nose around the equipment area or garage, I find a bucket of HTH Pace Dual Action 3” stabilized chlorine tablets. HTH Pace is owned by Arch Chemicals. The Dual Action tabs are 93.5% Trichloro-s-triazenetrione, 1.5% Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate and 5.0% Inert Ingredients.

They work really well. Trichlor is a great sanitizer and oxidizer, and everybody in the pool business knows that copper is a terrific sanitizer and algaecide. There are tons of copper based algaecides on the market, and most ionizers work by introducing copper ions into the water.

And too, high enough levels of copper in your pool water will cause staining, like I see in the pools of those people who just go to the Mass Marketer and buy the same bucket of tabs over and over again, without giving a lot of thought to what all their putting into their pool. I mean, every time they dissolve 100 pounds of these tablets into their pool, they’re also dissolving 1.5 pounds of copper into the water.

A few years ago, when I first saw that Home Depot was selling chlorine tablets with 1.5% Copper Sulfate, I knew that this was going to happen.

Now, the folks at Arch Chemicals are the same folks who are leading the charge about high stabilizer being bad for your pool. They’ve released a study showing degradation of plaster coupons when exposed to higher and higher levels of CYA. And so they’ve got this pool care program whose bedrock is that overstabilization is bad for your pool, that not only is it bad for your plaster, but that high levels affect your sanitizer’s ability to act as a sanitizer. There’s a lot of talk in the forums about this, too. Here are some links from the HTH consumer website about overstabilization.

That first link says it all. It sort of denudes their intentions: “HTH® and calcium hypochlorite (cal hypo) offer the only complete solution to overstabilization. Cal hypo products do not contain cyanuric acid and will not cause overstabilization.”

You see, for most folks who’ve been around this industry a long time, HTH Pace has always been synonymous with calcium based products. I remember going to a Raypak heater training seminar in southern California back about 1984 or 85 and the Raypak Rep holding up a section of 1 ½ inch copper pipe – there was still a lot of it out there back then – that was so scaled with calcium that you couldn’t get a pencil down the middle of it. He asked, “What causes this, fellas?” and we answered back in unison, “Cal Hypo”, because back in those days they used to sell this neat little gadget that you loaded up with those HTH cal hypo pellets and then you put it in the skimmer basket to let erosion dissolve the pellets at the rate determined by the dial-a-setting opening in the lid.

Of course, if you’re in a part of the country with hard water, then a daily diet of calcium for your pool is bad juju. You’re adding more calcium to water that’s already near the tipping point for calcium to start with. Sort of like throwing gas on a fire. The result is always the same; calcium scaling. I’ve seen pools in southern California that were so scaled with calcium that they had to be sanded after they were acid washed. Now, that’s not all HTH’s fault. Once calcium gets much over four or five hundred parts per million (ppm), it gets harder and harder to keep the calcium in solution.

And if you’re in a part of the country with really soft water, so soft out of the tap that you have to actually add calcium to get it up to 200 ppm, then that dial-a-lid thingie would be just fine… sort of.

Because you really need to consider that the pH of calcium hypochlorite is 11.8 and so it’s going to create a higher pH, calcium rich water stream from the skimmer through the equipment. Does that calcium rich, high pH water cause any of the calcium to fall out of solution and plate out on the interiors on your pumps and filters and heaters and plumbing?

Confusing, huh? If you’re in the business, then even as sketchy as it was, you followed everything I just said. If you’re not in the business, then you probably already closed this window.

Now the point I’m trying to make is to those of you still reading, those of you in the business. We are all of us manipulated by people in our industry who are manipulating the facts, and the best manipulator that we run into ends up getting us in their camp. Our own local water conditions come into play somewhat, but I believe that more than water, its The Argument that they present. But, when you look behind the curtain, it turns out that The Argument is 90% Sales Pitch.

Is Arch doing anything wrong by saying that high stabilizer is bad? Probably not. But I know it helps to sell a product that I dismissed a long time ago as inappropriate for day to day chlorination of my customer’s pools.

Is Chemtura doing something wrong by sticking with the story that there’s nothing wrong with stabilizer levels as high as 200 ppm? I don’t know. But it sure helps them sell a lot more trichlor tabs.

Is there reason to question research done on trichlor tabs by a company who tells you it’s a good idea to put calcium based chlorine tablets in your skimmer? You tell me.

Is there a problem with a company putting 1.5% copper into trichlor tabs and then telling people to shock their pool every week with an 11.8 pH oxidizer and never once bring up the issue of copper staining, and on top of that, sell this product in an environment – a Big Box store – where thorough water testing is impossible?

Now, I’m not picking on Arch. That’s the whole point. I could just as easily have taken the other side of the argument and made them look like Heroes. These are the kinds of holes that you and I know exist in every one of these guy’s arguments, in every article we read, in every opinion we see put forth. Everybody’s selling something, and doing and saying what they need to say to get it sold. If they can get you talking about the other guy’s shortcomings, then theirs will slip right under the radar.

The damnable thing to me is that we have to keep learning this crap over and over and over again.

It goes back to what the Chem Geek said; “That doesn't mean, however, that everything an industry person says is wrong. It just means you need to trust, but verify". And I think that’s the same thing the man was saying about his Pool Store when he talked about helping “them select just the right product”.

But who do you believe? Who do you trust? Even if you go to the internet and find a link and click it open and read a report that confirms your suspicions, only to find that the report was commissioned by the competition…

Good luck with all that.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Soylent Green Is… Baking Soda

I admit it. I’m a Glass Half Empty kinda guy. The few rules I live by run in the vein that There’s No Free Lunch, Everything’s a Hustle, and that, like P T Barnum said, There’s One Born Every Minute. I’m the guy peering at the horizon searching for the Thunderhead behind the Silver Lining.

I didn’t start out this way. It’s just that I’ve been paying attention as I grow older. If you have even a moderately curious mind, and scratch even the surface of most things, you don’t have to dig very far to find out things like the Fajitas sizzle is just water and oil they spritz on the cast iron “sizzle platter” – yes, that’s what it’s called – before they bring it to your table.

Too, being a Pool Guy, I’m exposed to those kinds of hustles every day in my industry. Like the Soylent Green thing… I mean, the Total Alkalinity Control thing. About ten years ago, I was in a pool store and saw where their chemical supplier was boxing up sodium sesquicarbonate and telling their customers that they MUST USE this to adjust their Total Alkalinity. And the reason they did that was so they didn’t have to admit that you could go to the grocery store and buy boxes of Baking Soda off the shelf, and even in one pound boxes, the most expensive way to buy the stuff, you were going to save at least half over what they were asking.

Now, the real hustle part of that example is that Baking Soda is not only cheaper at the grocery store, but it’s more appropriate for raising just your Total Alkalinity. You see, Sodium Bicarbonate has a pH of 8.3, and sodium sesquicarbonate has a pH of 10.5. So, if you use the sesqui stuff, you’ll have to add some acid to bring your pH back down to normal, which will burn off some of that Total Alkalinity you just raised, so then you’ll have to add more sesqui stuff… hey, wait a minute. Maybe they’re on to something, huh? It’s an endless loop of making money off of misinformation.

The funniest part of that story is that the same pool store, which was part of a nationwide franchise for a particular chemical line, used to sell 50 pound bags of industrial grade Baking Soda to customers who knew enough to ask for it. They sold it for about $25 for the 50 pound bag. They sold a 12 pound box of the sesqui stuff for $18.99.

Here’s a couple of examples of the price differences between what a pool store will charge you and what you can get if you’re an informed consumer.

Leslie’s sells a 5 pound bucket of Baking Soda for $9.99. They’ll sell you a fifty pound bucket for $52.99. That’s as much as $2.00 a pound.
It says right in the product description that Alkalinity Up is 100% granular Sodium Bicarbonate.

I’ve found one pound boxes of food grade Baking Soda in the grocery aisle for as little as sixty-eight cents a box.

But the price thing’s not the big issue here. Leslie’s is marking up Baking Soda nearly four times what you’d pay for even smaller quantities at the grocery store. But they’re not a nationwide supermarket chain. They’re a boutique. You knew they weren’t going to be cheap going through the door.

And, truth is, they’re at least admitting that they’re selling you Baking Soda.

Let’s look at another pool store chain. BioGuard sells their Total Alkalinity Control as a product called Balance Pak 100. Click Here for a link to their MSDS page. That’s Material Safety Data Sheets, in case you didn’t know. These are the government required ingredients sheets. They are outside the arena of sales and marketing and so explain what you’re really buying. Sort of like fajitas without the sizzle spritzed on. If you want to know what’s in something, ask them to see the MSDS at the point of sale.

But it seems they’re not selling Sodium Bicarbonate for Total Alkalinity Control. They’re selling Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate instead. Hmmm… if you scroll down to page 2, you’ll see it has a pH of 8.2, nearly identical to Sodium Bicarbonate and all the other information seems to be a mirror image of… Wait a minute. Look down there on page 3, under Transportation Information. Its proper shipping name is Sodium Bicarbonate. Baking Soda.

Do tell…

Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate is another name for NaHCO3; Sodium Bicarbonate, or Baking Soda. Did you know that?

Let’s look at another BioGuard program; Mineral Springs. Click Here. This
is the Mineral Springs program description page. The way it works is they sell you an Aqua Rite chlorine generator that’s been private labeled for BioGuard as a machine that converts “essential elements” – read salt – into a sanitizer – read chlorine. The key to this program is that you buy bags that are 75% to 90% salt and 5 to 15% boron salts (probably sodium tetraborate pentahydrate since they own that patent) and then other inorganic acids to make the thing equal 100%, all for about $40.00 a 30 lbs. bag. I didn’t learn the true ingredients on the Mineral Springs page. I learned it by going to, once again, the MSDS.

Anyway, you need 1 thirty pound bag for every thousand gallons of water in your pool to get started on the program. If you have a 20,000 gallon pool, that’s $800.00 plus tax, just for the “essential elements”. Not to mention another $15.00 a week forever to add Mineral Springs Renewal. That's an additional $60.00 a month; $780.00 a year.

OR, you could go to Home Depot and buy 13 bags of salt pellets for about $4.90 a 40 pound bag, and about fifteen boxes of 20 Mule Team Borax (sodium tetraborate decahydrate) for about $2.90 a box, and a couple two gallon cases of acid for about $8.00 a case – you’ll need the acid to neutralize the 9.25 pH of the Borax. With tax, you’re out the door for about $135.00.

In California, due to the restrictions of selling borate products for use in swimming pools, BioGuard just sells you salt, 95 - 98%, with 1 - 2% Cyanuric Acid (commonly called Stabilizer) thrown in and still calls it Mineral Springs. That way, they can still call it "essential minerals”. The guy in the pool store pitching it to you knows all this, and he's able to stand there with a straight face and sell you about $3.75 worth of salt, with 0.3 to 0.6 lbs. stabilizer in it for significantly more than that. Here’s the MSDS for Mineral Springs in California.

If you think I exaggerate, if you think I paint too bleak a picture here, go back to the Mineral Springs program description page and use your browser’s Search function to search for the word Salt, or Saline, or Salinity, or Sodium Chloride, anything that might disclose that people are buying a regular old salt system.

No? No hits? Now go here, to the Mineral Springs Frequently Asked Questions and do the same thing. Same results, you say?

Do tell…

This whole program has done so much to prove that PT Barnum was just a Piker, that now Leslie’s has gotten into the act, teaming with Hayward/Goldline to private label their Aqua Rite and call it the Hayward Swim Pure Salt System. And guess what? They have companion products to go along with it. But you probably guessed that.

First, there’s Salt Water Magic Foundation. You need one, five pound container for every 5,000 gallons of pool water, and it only costs $34.99 per container. So, for that same 20,000 gallon pool, you’ll need $139.96 plus tax. You’ll still need salt, though. So, after your Home Depot run, you’ll be out another $63.70. Then, every time you add a make up bag of salt during the year, you’re supposed to add a container of Salt Water Magic Support, for $24.99.

That works out to be about $30 every time you add a bag of salt. And Leslie's is by far the less expensive salt water based program.

Hmmm… I thought these Salt Systems were supposed to eliminate all these extra costs. Instead, the manufacturers who got you to buy these Trojan Horses on the premise of saving you money have now teamed with the retailers to find ways to make this just another way of separating you from even more of your money.

You have to admit that if you listen to the Industry Experts, and follow their advice on what you ought to buy, you're going to be out a lot more money than if you'd stuck to your old chlrorine tab feeder and a bucket of shock.

Well, at least Leslie’s calls theirs a Salt System.

These are the kinds of Staring You Right In The Face If You Know Where To Look observations that make me that Glass Half Empty kind of guy.

The saddest part is, everything I've said is true.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

It’s The Environment, Stupid… And The Taxes

I learned something from a Salt Rep a while back. To set Google Alerts for things like Chlorine Generator and Salt System and Salt Ban and Electrolysis and Southland Leisure Centre, and that way I can track any information that pops up on the web on any of these topics.

It has been a gold mine of information. Take, for example, this headline that came to me by way of the Salt Ban Alert:

Hard choice on water softeners
Dixon City Council is studying the possible ban on salt-based systems.

It turns out that the voters in Dixon, California overturned an effort to raise their taxes to fund an expansion at the wastewater plant. The expansion was to handle the ever increasing salinity level of their treated wastewater discharge. When they refused to pony up more taxes, that put the city out of compliance with state guidelines for salinity levels in treated waste discharge, and that got the state of California breathing down the necks of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, who, in turn, started breathing down the necks of the City of Dixon to come up with a solution. You know how it is, poorly treated waste rolls downhill.

So it continued to roll downhill until it plopped into the laps of the Dixon Wastewater Project Committee. They were tasked with coming up with ways that don’t cost the taxpayers any money but will still reduce the salinity level of their wastewater. And it occurred to them, “What if we stopped putting salt in the water? Do you think that might help?”

At that point, someone pointed out that it seems to have done the trick over in Santa Clarita, and so the committee came back to the city council with three proposals that pretty much read:

1. Get rid of salt based water softeners.
2. Teach people how to get rid of salt based water softeners.
3. Study the long term effects of getting rid of salt based water softeners.

And we all know what happens next, right? If Santa Clarita is any indicator, in about two and a half years, they’ll come back and say;

1. Get rid of swimming pool salt pool chlorine generators.
2. Teach people how to get rid of salt pool chlorine generators.
3. Study the long term effects of getting rid of salt pool chlorine

But it might be sooner, because since I have Google Alerts, I was able to see that story the day it published and send a blizzard of links to everybody in Dixon who’s e-mail I could find to tell them that they ought to just go ahead and throw salt pools in there while they’re thinking about banning salty stuff.

Isn’t networking Neat?

And I know, I know. I can already hear the Salt Is Great Amen Choir reciting the California building code that backwash lines for pools aren’t hooked to the sewer so they’re not technically increasing the salinity of the waste stream, because it just spews onto the ground, and anybody who keeps up with the Breaking News at some of the more popular internet pool forums knows that “unless your soil already has very high salt concentrations or you are growing the very most tempermental [sic] plants in the world SWG pool water will be just fine for watering plants for years and years…”, to which another Living Online Instead of In the Real World forum regular adds, “Our deck-o-drain drains out to the side of our [pool] 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' ".

And that, my friends, is the state of the Salt Pool Biz on the Internet. The consumer is faced with either going to the manufacturer’s website, where the lies are so thick you can cut them with a knife, or going to these forums, which so much resemble a bunch of guys sitting around the garage, drinking beer, pulling each other’s fingers and convincing each other that salt's okay. One of them recommends that everybody water their plants "for years and years" with salt water, and another thinks that the salty water is helping his plants. If anybody with any real knowledge of agriculture were walking by when they said it, they would laugh themselves silly and tell them that is such a load of... poorly treated waste. But then, they wouldn’t be invited to the next finger pulling contest.

And really, what do I know? I just read facts that are printed in silly old newspapers and dumb old research journals and b-o-r-i-n-g professional waste water management publications. It’s not like I KNOW anything, like these guys at the forums who got solid C’s in chemistry and earth science in school, or the Salt Reps, who are really your friends and would never tell you a lie for something as base as a wad of greasy cash.

What the heck, though. Here’s some more of those dumb old facts about salt ruining drinking water:

Too much salt in New Jersey's water?

“United Water company has been sending notices out to its customers in Bergen and Hudson counties warning that the sodium level in the water supply is higher than it should be.

The company blames the winter task of salting the roads to keep them clear of ice.

The salt and snow melt from the roads spilled into reservoirs, taking the concentration of sodium higher than state guidelines -- and the water processing can't flush it out.

But the company is required to put out the warning for people with high blood pressure or other high sodium sensitive health concerns. It advises them to talk to their doctors.”

So now you’re advised to talk to your doctor before you drink the water in Jersey because of salt. Of all the things I thought you’d have to worry about drinking Jersey water, salt was pretty far down on the list. But there it is.

And on the off chance that you’re brain damaged and you don’t readily see the connection between salt on the roads and salt pools… It’s all salt. Salt pools are elective. They’re not mandatory. Why would you be part of the problem when you can be part of the solution?

This also dovetails nicely into why it’s not okay to blow your salty backwash onto the ground as if you needed to be told fer-Chrissakes…

Deep breaths…. Counting to ten… Okay... Better now.

But my favorite little tidbit to come my way via my Google Alerts is this one. It’s a thread on the Water Technology Bulletin Board. Click it and read through it a couple of times to get the drift of what they’re talking about. I’ll give you the synopsis, but don’t trust me. Go read it for yourself.

This guy named Dirkson is asking a bunch of Real Water Experts to respond with their approach to solving a water quality issue. Now, these are people who make a living working with the technologies that make your water drinkable. They are not like your local Salt Reps who make a living by making your water undrinkable, or people who post on pool forums who, for the most part, just own a pool and do something else besides know anything about water for a day job. The water quality issue was providing about 1,000 gallons per week with a source water that had a hardness of about 3800 ppm and a salinity of about 2100 ppm. Your salt pool water has nearly double that salinty.

The thread quickly becomes defined as RE: Brackish Water Treatment by the responders, and, as we all know, brackish is defined as salty tasting. So they’re all keying on the high salinity, which like I said, is only a little more than half what your salt pool water is.

The first responder says, “There is NO EASY ANSWER. That is why no one is responding to your post”, and he goes on to recommend solar stills because the energy costs to reclaim that water would be too high.

The next responder says, sure, it can be treated. System cost for 500 gallons per day would be about $10,000. That would just about cover Mom and Dad and the three kids, each averaging about 100 gallons of water a day (that’s the US average).

The next couple responders point out that even at the $10,000 mark, there’s a problem with all that salinity. Using RO and water softeners to reclaim the water creates a brine discharge problem.

“Even worse where do you get rid of all the brine from the regenerations? I would never want to allow it to be dispersed on the land. Especially, if the land is above a water table. “

But, gosh, the Pool Gurus on the pool forums said that it was good for plants and stuff. Said I could blow it all over the ground for years and years. You mean to tell me that they were wrong? You mean to tell me that… their opinion was just… an opinion? I am crushed.

Of course, the folks who make a living creating polluted pool water – that is, after all, what 3,500 ppm salt water is; polluted water that needs treatment according to EVERYBODY IN WASTEWATER MANAGEMENT – the same folks who want to keep selling you salt systems will say that this is all just those guy’s opinions. But their opinions coincide with legislation that keeps popping up all over the country about how our excessive use of salt is causing increasing costs in waste water reclamation.

So, if you’re one of those Red State Republicans who hates new taxes, the way all good Republicans are supposed to, and you just happen to have a salt system on your pool, remember that you can’t vote NO when your municipality comes hat in hand asking for more money to desalinate the waste water. Unless, of course, you want them to legislate your salt pool out of existence. Because that would logically be next. Like in Santa Clarita, and perhaps soon to come in Dixon, and perhaps coming to a municipality near you soon.

There’s just one more little factoid I want to pass along that I found out there in cyberspace this week. It’s kind of a good fit to put the lie to the Other Guy’s baloney that they’re big companies and they know what’s best for you, and that, at the very least, they certainly know better than some dumb old pool cleaner in Dallas, Texas.

In 1957, the Ford Motor Company (pretty big company, wouldn’t you say?) unveiled a concept car, called the Nucleon. Then, again in 1962, they came to the Seattle World’s Fair with another concept car they called the Ford Seattle-ite XXI. The Nucleon and especially the Seatlle-ite XXI were cars designed for the 21st century, when everybody would own several small nuclear reactors to fuel their energy needs. Both cars were envisioned to be powered by a slightly larger version of the reactor that powers your lawnmower and your kid’s jet bike.

What? You say you don’t have a nuclear fueled lawnmower and your kid is still pedaling around the neighborhood?

But you have salt in your pool water? Who have you been listening to?