Filling Intex-type Pools with well water
(incomplete -- still being edited -- PoolDoc)
Intex pools are inexpensive and easy to set up. As a result, they are ending up in places where "no pools have gone before". One of those places is at homes serviced with well water containing iron or other metals. Well water can be great pool water; limestone wells in my own N. Georgia are a good example. On the other hand, wells from the iron and coal shale beds on Lookout Mountain -- also in N. Georgia -- are AWFUL.
So, before you fill, KNOW what you are putting in your pool. If you aren't sure, the bucket test for metals can tell you.
In many cases, Intex pool care can be pretty easy and simple, compared to other pools. This is not that case! Successfully operating an Intex pool that is filled with metal-contaminated well water requires a careful plan and a continuing attention to detail. It also requires spending more money on pool care than you probably planned.
If you are not ready to provide that, the best choice you can make is to drain your pool, fold it up, and give it away.
Of course, that's not what many people do. Instead they go to pool stores again and again, looking for a magic wand. And since pool stores are delighted to sell them something that might be a magic wand (but isn't!), they end up spending the extra money and time, but still don't get a clear and clean pool to enjoy.
So, before you go further, you need to decide:
If you want the magic wand, you may as well close your browser and head on over to the nearest pool store. But, if you are going to bite the bullet, keep reading. If you are completely new to pools, it will seem long and complicated. I can't fix that: it is somewhat complicated, at first.
- are you going to bite the bullet, spend the time and money needed, and learn what's required?
- Or, are you going to look for a magic wand?
I'll do what I can, though.
There's a printable buyers guide at the end, with a shopping list for local use, and a set of Amazon links for things you'll need to get online. PoolForum is partly supported by commissions from Amazon sales -- but you do NOT have to buy from Amazon. You SHOULD use the links to make sure you get EXACTLY the right thing, if you purchase elsewhere.
And, there is ( will be) a printable check list to keep by your pool -- Coming soon!
I. Operating a pool contaminated with iron or other metals.
II. What you need to start over the right way.
III. Draining and refilling the right way.
IV. Maintenance & Operations.
V. Shutdown and storage.
I. Operating a pool already contaminated with iron or other metals
Ideally, you should have everything ready -- plan, extra chemicals, improved filter cartridges, etc -- on hand and waiting before you fill. But most people discover the problem AFTER the pool is filled. So, we'll start with the assumption that you filled your pool BEFORE you came to this page, and then we'll move on.
None of the metals usually found in well water -- iron, manganese, or copper -- are dangerous to swim in. They do make a mess, however. There are two hazards you should consider, however.
First, you can 'lose' a small child in cloudy water. This does happen, and does kill people. If your pool is cloudy, you MUST maintain a continuous body count on swimmers, and instantly respond, if one is missing.
Second, because most sanitizers make the problem with metals appear worse, and because the metals can use up the sanitizer, owners may not use enough. This is a mistake! Metal contaminated pools are messy; unsanitary pools are dangerous. Make up your mind to choose messy over dangerous!
Moving on: if you've already filled your pool with metal contaminated water, cleaning it up may not be practical. But, you can continue to use it while you prepare for a restart. The process below will help you do so more safely and enjoyably, than you could otherwise. To some extent, it will also help you clean up your pool. You may even get lucky, and find out that you pool cleans up enough so that you do NOT have to drain and refill!
One tip: metals in well water don't stain people permanently, but they do stain swimwear. Do NOT wear new fancy swimsuits in a metal contaminated pool! Instead, either wear old swimsuits, or else no swimsuit at all if your location or the children's ages allow it.
The process below depends only on chemicals you should be able to find locally, with the possible exception of polyquat. (NOT YET) A printable buying guide is linked to this post. Print it, and carry it with your when you go to the store.
Here's what you need to do:
- Purchase some polyquat (more sources below, info about polyquat here) and use it at the rate of 1/8 PF-dose per day. Polyquat is a moderately effective sanitizer, an effective algaecide, and an effective filter aid. Using it will help keep your pool algae free and sanitary, and will help your filter work. If you cannot find it locally, have it shipped 2-day from Amazon.
- Purchase an HTH 6-way drops test kit, if available, or a cheap OTO / phenol red kit if not. Test your chlorine and pH levels daily.
- Set aside ANY pool chemicals you have purchased, and do NOT use them. Post a COMPLETE list of what you have along with EXACT product and brand names, so we can check them. Pool stores often sell pool owners chemicals that are not only unneeded, but that will make things worse.
- Purchase dichlor granular chlorine if possible or PLAIN 6% (check the %) household bleach if not.
- Purchase (1) box of 20 Mule Team borax for every 5,000 gallons (or portion) in your pool.
- Purchase EITHER 1 gallon of 20 Baume (31.45%) muriatic acid OR 4 lbs or more of "Dry Acid" (sodium bisulfate). If your pool is smaller than 5,000 gallons, we recommend using dry acid. If you buy muriatic, read the muriatic acid safe handling page.
- Leave your pump on as much as possible. If you don't have enough filter cartridges, buy a few more -- but not many; you'll need to get higher quality cartridges later.
- If your pool's pH is above 7.4, use acid to lower it to 6.8 - 7.0. (Metals are less of a problem at a lower pH.) Use about 1 PF-dose of muriatic acid OR dry acid, wait 4 hours, and then RE-TEST the pool.
- If your pool's pH is BELOW 6.8, use borax to raise it, about 2 doses at a time, added to the skimmer with the pump running. Wait 4 hours and then re-test.
- Add chlorine EACH time the pool is used, and each evening. High chlorine makes metals worse, so you need multiple small doses. Add 1 doses of bleach or 1/8 dose of dichlor each time.
II. What you need to start over the right way.
Filling with well water the RIGHT way, requires that you prepare first and fill later.
- Purchase HEDP to keep the metal in its original dissolved form, instead of the cloudy forms that make a mess.
- Purchase polyquat to allow you to keep the pool sanitary and algae free, as you gradually work your way through the iron.
- Purchase upgraded cartridge filters for your filter & the chemicals and equipment to clean your filters.
- Purchase either a HTH 6-way testkit (if available) OR a Taylor K-2006 -- you WILL have to be able to measure accurately what's going on. "Guess -trips" do NOT count, no matter what flavor, or whether they are read electronically or by a Mark I eyeball.
- Purchase muriatic acid to keep your pH low. If your pool is below 5,000 gallons, you can use "dry acid" or "pH down" (sodium bisulfate) instead.
- Purchase dichlor to chlorinate your pool. You are going to need to keep chlorine levels low, and it's easier to measure small amounts of dichlor. You could use bleach, but bleach is unstabilized, and you need stabilizer in a freshly filled pool.
- Purchase the equipment you need to vacuum your pool: a wheeled vac head, a pool pole, and a vac hose.
Ok, decision time. Everything above is about keeping the metal dissolved in the pool water, while making your pool usable by cleaning up what little iron does appear. But, all that metal is STILL in your pool. But, now you've got to make a choice.
7a. You can use the CuLater units to 'grab' the metals from your water. If they work -- and we *think* they do, and have evidence they do, but no proof -- they are the EASIEST solution, by far. The downside is that they are fairly expensive, and we're not 100% sure that they work. (If you get them, and they do NOT work, we really, really want to hear from you!)
7b. You can use your filter + cal hypo to gradually dump the metals on your pool. This is not as easy, but it does work. It's a little tricky, however, and you have to pay close attention to your pool water, and your dosing.
7c. You can get ambitious, and go for broke, with drop it out, and vacuum it out approach. This is the trickiest approach, and the most likely to result in periods where the pool looks bad again. This approach requires you to DELIBERATELY add chlorine, pH increaser, and a floc, to dump the metals onto your pool bottom, where you can vacuum them up and out. You have to have the the tools (you'll need them anyhow, eventually), and you'll have to pay very close attention to what you are doing.
7d. Finally, you can go 'pro', and pre-treat your fill water using a 2nd pool. On the upside, this approach is the one that WILL work. On the downside, it puts you into the water treatment business. It's not all that hard, or time consuming. And once you get the routine down, will give you the highest water quality. But, you've got to buy ANOTHER pool, about 1/2 the volume of your current pool!
So . . . make your decision: 7a, 7b, 7c, or 7d. And then click the link for your choice!