Chlorine shortage hits ahead of summertime swimming

May 1 (UPI) — An increase in swimming pool use amid the pandemic and a major plant fire has led to a widespread chlorine shortage as people prepare U.S. pools for the summer, experts say.

The scarcity follows an unprecedented surge in demand last year as people turned to backyard swimming pools during the COVID-19 pandemic as they were forced to stay home, and a major fire at BioLab plant in Louisiana last August, which is one of the country’s major suppliers of chlorine tablets, CNBC reported. The plant, near Lake Charles, La., is expected to resume operations by spring 2022.

The plant had been evacuated for Hurricane Laura, so employees were not harmed in the fire, BioLab’s parent company, KIK Consumer Products, confirmed at the time.

“We started buying early, way early, and stockpiled as much as we could,” Allan Curtis, whose maintenance business, Ask the Pool Guy, services 1,000 customers in Howell, Mich., told CNBC. “We won’t last more than probably mid-May, or late May, and we’ll be out of chlorine.”

Jessica Storts, manager of Capitol Pools, told WRAL News that pool sales rose 500% from 2019 to 2020, and it’s even busier this year, adding that the chlorine tablets are essential to sanitizing pools.

“You’ve got contact dermatitis, folliculitis, Legionnaires Disease,” Storts added. “You’ve got pinkeye, sinus infections, ear infections. All of those are signs that the water chemistry is not right in the pool.”

Chlorine prices are expected to rise 70% this summer, according to financial services company IHS Markit, and have already doubled over the past year in some parts of the country, CNBC reported.

Pool experts told CNBC the following advice: don’t get into a pool unless it appears clean and clear; contact local pool professionals to discuss alternatives, such as saltwater pools; keep up with maintenance routines; shower before swimming; and don’t allow pets in the pool.