It was a seasonably warm evening that hinted at the summer to come, and Artie Verderamo paused over the limpid water of the backyard pool he was tending in Glen Ridge.
Verderamo, a technician with Competition Pools in nearby Nutley, said his client still had some chlorine tablets left over from last summer, so he wasn’t worried just yet about a nationwide shortage of tablets that’s driven up prices or put them out of stock entirely.
“He’s going to be (worried) in a couple months, when he runs out of the stuff he has,” Verderamo said. “And then we’re stuck with the Chinese granular chlorine, which you’ve got to mix in a bucket, dump some in, mix in bucket, dump some in. And it dissipates after two days. It’s supposed to last a week.”
“We can’t get any of the good stuff right now at all,” he said.
By “the good stuff,” Verderamo means the convenient chlorine tablets that have long been standard for backyard pool disinfecting, which are placed into floaters or compartments in filtration systems, and dissolve gradually into the water, keeping backyard pools chlorinated at a stable level, for prolonged periods.
The tablets are in short supply these days due to a combination of factors, including a spike in demand for backyard pools and supplies driven by coronavirus-related restrictions and apprehensions about travel or other types of recreation.
“Swimming in your pool is the closest thing to going on vacation,” said Tim McGrogan, a part owner of the Pool Depot, a family business in the Pompton Plains section of Pequannock Township that installs and supplies pools in Northern New Jersey.
McGrogan estimated that a quarter of the single-family homes in the Pool Depot’s corner of Morris County had pools. Those pool owners and others now face 20-25% price hike for tablets at his store and other outlets, if they can find them. McGrogan said Friday that he had been out of chlorine tablets for a week, and he doesn’t know when he’ll have more.
“Right now we’re being told by our distributor that they don’t honestly know when they’ll be able to get chlorine into our store,” said McGrogan.
Beyond the spike in demand, supply was disrupted by a fire last August at a plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, that had bee one of the nation’s leading producers of chlorine tablets. The plant was operated by Canadian chemical conglomerate KIK, whose products include Clorox Pool Chlorinating Tablets, Chlorine Stabilizer, BioGuard Smart Shock blue algae-killing crystals, and SilkGuard Complete, which combines a chlorinating agent, water softener and algae killer.
A KIK spokesman issued a statement saying the company had a Spring 2022 target date for completion of a $170 million reconstruction and expansion of the plant, which is operated by its Biolab subsidiary.
“We know how essential our products are to everyday families at home, who now more than ever, are seeking to ensure the sanitation of their pools,” the statement…