ammonia problem

Chlorinating, maintaining the right chlorine levels,
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Very Frustrated

ammonia problem

Postby Very Frustrated » Fri 08 Jun, 2007 13:24

We were told by our pool maintainance company that we have a chlorine lock and the pool tested high ammonia (3 times normal). Long story short: This is the 4th time between last year and this summer that we've had to drain the pool down and refill and I'm sick of it. We don't know what the source of the ammonia is - don't fertilize, no huge crowds of people, pool vinyl lined, auto chlorinator, 12 years old and never had a problem until last summer.
Oh, by the way, the drain/refill last week only took the ammonia level down to 2 so we may have to do it again. Very expensive and in the meantime, nobody is swimming! Anyone have any experience in this?


me_too

Re: ammonia problem

Postby me_too » Fri 08 Jun, 2007 13:29

Very Frustrated wrote:We were told by our pool maintainance company that we have a chlorine lock and the pool tested high ammonia (3 times normal). Long story short: This is the 4th time between last year and this summer that we've had to drain the pool down and refill and I'm sick of it. We don't know what the source of the ammonia is - don't fertilize, no huge crowds of people, pool vinyl lined, auto chlorinator, 12 years old and never had a problem until last summer.
Oh, by the way, the drain/refill last week only took the ammonia level down to 2 so we may have to do it again. Very expensive and in the meantime, nobody is swimming! Anyone have any experience in this?


Ammonia? Do they mean phosphates?

You may be just high in CYA since you're using a chlorinator. What's your CYA number?

Post a complete set of test results (and pool size) and we'll take it from there.
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Postby Backglass » Fri 08 Jun, 2007 13:45

Chlorine lock is caused by high levels of CYA (stabilizer). After you get the levels down, switch to liquid chlorine. If you go right back to pucks and dry shock, you will eventually be back in the same (locked) boat again.

The ammonia is coming from <DRUMROLL> Your kids! Perspiration and Urine are mostly ammonia but because of the chlorine lock, they couldn't be removed and thus built up.

Chlorine (when free & available) oxidizes Ammonia and Nitrogen. Fix the chlorine and you fix the ammonia.

...and don't double post! Once is enough. :P
bluecubsfan

Ammonia problem

Postby bluecubsfan » Tue 09 Jun, 2009 21:18

I read your post and thought that perhaps I had written it! The same thing has happened to me the past 2 years upon opening the pool. Last year I was told that I had waited too long to open it.
This year that can't be the reason. I am taking the water level down below the the returns tonight and refilling tomorrow. I will try the liquid treatment that was suggested and see if that helps. Good luck solving your problem.
chem geek
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ammonia problem

Postby chem geek » Tue 09 Jun, 2009 23:51

It is well known that bacteria can convert Cyanuric Acid (CYA) into ammonia resulting in a very large chlorine demand. However, the bacteria won't grow unless the chlorine level goes to near zero. So this problem usually only happens when one closes a pool over the winter and stops adding chlorine (which you can't help if your pool freezes over and you drain below the returns).

Though normally the conversion of CYA to ammonia occurs over an extended period of time, it can literally take just a few days as happened to my own pool as I describe here .

At the end of this season I will do an experiment and let the chlorine go to zero and see how long it takes for algae to grow or for the CYA to start dropping. I added 50 ppm Borates to the pool so am curious to see if this inhibits algae growth and by how much. My pool has 2000-3000 ppb phosphates so is very unforgiving if the chlorine gets too low, but I normally have no problems with the pool since (except for this one time) I keep the FC/CYA ratio high enough.

Richard
Bonnie

ammonia problem

Postby Bonnie » Mon 19 Jul, 2010 20:25

I may have to disagree about the cnyaric acid being the answer to the problem. I have several customers with low cynaric readings and they are still experiencing ammonia problems. I have recently tested the rain water and found that there were high amounts of ammonia present. We do a partial drain sometimes and still treat with extreme amounts of sodium dichlor. The average amount of dichlor at one time is 10lbs or more depending upon the size of pool we also re-check our ammonia reading in 48 hrs to see how much we have burned out. There are some occasions the pools become so green we use a dry floc which if you allow it to send everything to the bottom of the pool it ususally works very well. It just requires patience because sometimes it takes 5 or 6 days to work. We have found that any pool that we have on borates do not experience this problem or regualar doses of copper algaecide sometimes offer a good defense. I prefer the borate that is what i use and i have had no problem with the ammonia compared to my neighbors who have had the issue. I have been in the pool business for 25 years and have never had the problems we have experienced the last 3 years. For all of you who are frustrated you are not the only one and don't give up and be willing to change your methods. Please have your pool checked before you close it we have found the problem can become really nasty if you don't remove them before you close it. Also make sure you are dealing with a reputable pool dealer, retail and hardware stores are not trained or have any knowledge about this particular problem.
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ammonia problem

Postby lbridges » Mon 19 Jul, 2010 20:45

Very Frustrated - if you read the link that chem geek provided you will find that adding sufficient (large) quantities of bleach (or pool store chlorinating liquid if cost effective) will eventually oxidize all the ammonia away.
chem geek
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ammonia problem

Postby chem geek » Tue 20 Jul, 2010 02:36

Bonnie wrote:I may have to disagree about the cnyaric acid being the answer to the problem.

I never said that Cyanuric Acid was the answer to the problem. Indeed, I said that when the chlorine level gets to near zero, bacteria can grow and convert cyanuric acid to ammonia. This is described technically in this post including links to scientific sources describing the chemical pathway involved.

As noted in this link , the ammonium ion concentration in rain water is at most 0.65 mg/L (ppm) which isn't very much considering the amount of rain relative to pool water volume. It isn't going to be a particularly significant factor. Even with a 4" rain in a 4' deep pool, this nets out to only around 0.05 ppm ammonia introduced into the pool requiring around 0.5 ppm FC to get rid of it.

The large quantities of ammonia can come from the bacterial conversion of CYA into ammonia since for every 10 ppm CYA converted it produces around 3 ppm ammonia and that can require 23-30 ppm FC to get rid of it. So having CYA levels drop when the FC is near zero can certainly be a sign of such conversion, especially if ammonia in significant quantities is measured in the pool water.
Guest

ammonia problem

Postby Guest » Wed 06 Jun, 2012 15:05

ok- I work at a pool chemicals and service business in Indiana and cyanuric acid levels have nothing to do with ammonia problems. Ammonia is an air born substance, probably from treating grass or farmers use it to grow crops. Even if you do not live near neither of these things, like i said it is still an air born substance so it can travel. Even a couple miles and get into your pool. The way to get control over this substance is to double shock your pool. Grainular chlorine is idea, super shock wave is a good example, becuase it contails a 73% active compared to other chlorines like liquid that only has 12% maximum you can get. We tell customers to add 1 pound per 1000 gallons. So lets say you have a pool containing 2000 gallons, we would want to put four pounds to double shock it. Do that 3 nights in a row if the ammonia problem is high. Then go to the nearest pool business and get your water tested, specifially for ammonia. You have to continue to shock this problem until it is powerful enough to overcome. Then once it is gone, make sure to keep the chlorine high at all times, so this does not become a problem again, becuase it is not cheap to fix. Good luck
chem geek
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ammonia problem

Postby chem geek » Wed 06 Jun, 2012 19:46

This is not true. Chlorine reacts almost instantly with ammonia to form monochloramine which measures as Combined Chlorine (CC) in test kits, but then gets further oxidized (within hours) to nitrogen gas (and some nitrate). The most common ammmonia test kit based on salicylate does not distinguish between ammonia and monochloramine (the less common kit based on Nessler's reagent has less interference from monochloramine). Ammonia, presumably in the form of ammonium nitrate from fertilizer, is not blown into pools in any quantity large enough to be measurable (i.e. at the ppm level) and it is oxidized relatively quickly by chlorine so would not result in a huge amount of ammonia. Ammonia can most certainly result from bacterial conversion of CYA. That's known science (did you read the links I gave? can you read and understand this link and the detail in this link and this link that show ammonia being produced by the bacterial degradation of cyanuric acid? Or how about this link , this link , and this link among many others).

I believe what you are thinking about is phosphates (and nitrates) from fertilizer which can get blown into pools since much smaller concentrations (in the hundreds of ppb range) can create greater chlorine demand. These are essential nutrients for algae growth so if one does not have sufficient Free Chlorine (FC) relative to the Cyanuric Acid (CYA) level, then algae can grow faster than chlorine can kill it. In that situation, it can appear as if one has an unusual chlorine demand since the algae can be growing and using up chlorine without yet being visible. Shocking the pool to a higher chlorine level to get ahead of the algae growth would work in that case, but if the CYA level is high then one needs to lower it anyway so might as well do a partial drain/refill.

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