COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS — From toilet paper to lumber and a little bit of everything in between, we've seen all sorts of shortages stem from the pandemic. As the warmer months draw near, you can also now add chlorine to the list.
As pool season officially makes a splash into this pandemic year, those in the pool industry have noticed a shift in supply and demand of many things, including a popular disinfectant.
"Everybody instead of going places is staying at home. Instead of buying plane tickets and a cruise, now they are buying a hot tub or a pool for the backyard," Bill Elsik, General Manager with Brazos Valley Pools and Hot Tubs said
Bill Elsik has been the General Manager at Brazos Valley Pools and Hot Tubs for less than a year and says normally someone could get what they wanted in about 3 weeks. Now, that's not the case.
"Now, I'm having to place orders 6 months later I will receive them, and people have to pre-order. They have to buy something I've already got on order. They can't choose their own model. They are stuck with what I'm choosing. It's reversed. What do I have coming? That's what you can have. Oh, you want a different model? I can have that a year from now," Elsik added.
Elsik says the pool industry has seen a boom in sales and service, including a spike in weather-related calls.
"When you lose power on a pool guess what happens, you have no circulation.. water freezes and pipes burst. While the pandemic and the weather and all of that has increased my business. I am happy, but sad for folks too because I feel their pain," Elsik added.
Another wave crashing the pool industry; a shortage of chlorine. A post-hurricane fire at a chemical plant in Louisiana has made chlorine harder to find and costlier when you can, leaving retailers stocking up on alternatives.
"I, myself, have a different chemical already in stock called Baquacil. It's an alternative. It's a hydrogen peroxide-based solution, so I am not dependent on chlorine," Elsik added.
Saturday, Elsik says, was when he first heard of the shortage and now, he's already limiting the number of chlorine-related items people can take home.
"I don't want someone to come in a pallet full of stuff. I've got a lot of clients I need to take care of. We are trying to be honest and fair with everyone. I've got a lot of clients out there trying to take care of a huge investment. Pools aren't cheap." Elsik said.
Also looking out for tomorrow is Texas A and M's Rec Center, which says their chlorine supplier hasn't been affected, but also says they don't rely just on chlorine to keep their 5 on-campus pools protected.
"The UV system is basically a backup to the chlorine and kills any bacteria in the water. We have UV systems in all of our pools," Carlos Garcia, Aquatics Director at the Rec Center said.
Garcia says they perform chemical checks every two hours from 6 am until midnight to ensure all bodies of water at the Rec Center are chemically balanced.
"The chlorine that we get comes out of Tennessee, so we are not really affected by the hurricane that happened in Louisiana, as well as the plant catching fire," Garcia added. "If you are running liquid chlorine or if you have the 3-inch chlorine tabs, that is what going to be the shortage now," he said.
During the pandemic, Garcia says, there was a spike in pool ownership, which is partly contributing to the disruption many are seeing in the pool supply chain.
"People went out and built pools and started buying the chemicals needed. There was a higher demand for chlorine as well as other chemicals that go with it. Now with the shortage going on.. with COVID shutting down plants, the storms, fires, everything is set back." Garcia said.
Garcia says pre-pandemic, the Rec Center had swimming space open for daily guest passes and they also hosted outside entities, but since the onset of COVID, it's reserved for students only at this time.