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Simmer

Very High Phosphate and white water and foam and no chlorine?

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I am a very new hot tub owner, having only owned my tub for 3 months.  From the start we have had problems with foam and off color water, and the ph bounced around a lot.  I have a Hot Springs tub with the salt water ACE system. 

When the tub was filled, it was run through a softener the dealer provided, although we have softened municipal well water anyway.  As soon as they added the salt to get the ACE system running, the water took on a slightly off color, maybe sort of grayish in color.

Took a trip a few weeks ago, had the tub water balanced so I thought, added a little extra chlorine because we were leaving and turned down the output on the ACE system.  Came back a week later, lifted the cover to discover brown murky water that smelled like a fish tank.  No chlorine, ph and total alkilinity so high it was almost off the test strip.  Immediately started reducing the PH, turned the ACE system output back up.  Took an entire week, but I got the water to clear, but I could not get any  free chlorine reading, and the water was bubble bath foamy. 

Took a sample of water to the store.  Ph was 7.7, total alkalinity 96, calcium hardness 13,  Free chlorine 1.33, total chlorine 15.01.  Phosphates 5251.

They told me the high phosphates needed to be treated.  told me to dump an entire 8 ounce bottle of EZ tub Start in and it would work for 48 hours.  I went home and did that.  The water turned the color of skim milk.  Foam was so bad that it spilled over the sides of the tub.  48 hours later, the water is still murky white.  The foaming is not gone, but 90% reduced.  They told me to put in a non chlorine oxidizer and check it after two hours.  But now the PH is 6.2, there is still no free chlorine.  I called the store and they said now I have to raise the PH before I can add chlorine.  I don't have any pool store chemical for that, so I added some baking soda, which they said was ok.  But now the foaming is worse again 

I am following their written instructions to the letter.  Do I just need to wait for this to work again and allow days to go by?  Why is the water so cloudy now when it was clear before I treated for phosphates?

Checked with our local water people.... they add phosphates to the water to clean the water lines.  Is it the phosphates causing all the foam?  It is winter here, and I am not in a position to drain the tub.  Is there a way to salvage this so we can at least use it?

Thanks for anyone's insight into what is going on. 

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57 minutes ago, Simmer said:

Phosphates 5251. It is winter here, and I am not in a position to drain the tub.  Is there a way to salvage this so we can at least use it?

Can't be that many gallons; wait for a warmer day, drain, flush the plumbing, re-fill.

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450 gallons.  They want us to rent a filter/softener unit from them when filling.  So..... best bet is to give up and drain and start over?  If I have to treat for phosphates again, won't I just end up with white water all over again? 

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That is insanely high for phosphates.  I would do a system flush and drain ASAP.  After refilling, I would deal with the phosphates first.  No idea what EZ tub start is.  I would seek out a product specifically for Phosphates and it likely will have to be a pool product since there are very few specifically made for spas.  Natural Chemistry PHOSfree and Bioguard Pool Tonic. 

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The product used for phosphates is called EZ Spa Start.  It was supposed to remove metals, phosphates and organic debris and scale.  Honestly, it looks like I just created liquid soap.  The spa store called me to follow up and I told them the water hasn't cleared up at all.  They thought it would take 48 hours.  We are coming up on 96 with no change.    I have cleaned the filters, but there was nothing to clean, really.  There is no "ring around the tub" or anything - just water that looks like bathwater after you use a lot of soap.  It doesn't smell like anything, but it feels a little "thick".    With all the stuff that has been added to the water, I asked if I am at the point where I just need to dump the water and start over and they said no, to just give it a few more days and they will follow up in another 48.  We are in single digits here, so refilling isn't really an option and I can't drain it and shut it down either. 

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3 hours ago, Cusser said:

I have never used or had soft water in my CalSpa, 30 years with it now.

When using a salt water system, whether it be ACE, or something else, you need to use soft water.  Regardless, the soft water is not the issue.

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OK.  Got a warmish day in the upper 40's.  Drained and refilled the tub.  Treated the cold water with phosphate remover.  Water became very alkaline afterward - as in I treated it to reduce PH and total  alkalinity twice before I could get it to even read on the high end of the test strip.  I had a 20 ounce bottle of Brilliance PH Decreaser and have used 3/4 of it.  The total alkalinity has come down to almost okay at 140, but the PH is still around 8.4  What gives?   Is this normal?  Our source water has a ph of 7.6 and a total alkalinity of 230, but those  numbers went sky high after the phosphate remover was put in.   

I am so discouraged.  I do not want to recreate the situation I had before where I had to dump the water because we couldn't get it balanced.  It is normal to have to add a lot of chems to get the water in balance?  I am in a rural community on a community well if that makes any difference.

Also - my pool store says the wait 2-3 hours after adding PH decreasers to re-test the water.  The bottle says circulate the water for 30 minutes and re-test.  Whose directions do I follow?  Why would waiting hours make a difference?

Thanks for any insight.  I just want to soak in my tub of clean warm water.......

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If the water is cold, I would wait the 2-3 hours.  Chemicals don’t always react quickly in cold water.  I have a few customers that use almost 1lb of pH down on each fill due to high total Alkalinity.

i have never experienced high pH after using a phosphate remover so I cannot be of help there.

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15 hours ago, Simmer said:

Also - my pool store says the wait 2-3 hours after adding PH decreasers to re-test the water.  The bottle says circulate the water for 30 minutes and re-test.  Whose directions do I follow?  Why would waiting hours make a difference?

I'm a degreed chemist.  Once the pH Decreaser dissolves, the acid-base reaction is very quick - less than seconds - IF THE WATER GETS MIXED.  So turn on the circulation pump and/or jets, let it mix 10 minutes and it would be fine to test.

If the chemical doesn't dissolve readily, manually agitate or stir like with a cheap broom with the circulation on.  Rinse off the broom afterwards.

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Yay!  I think I finally got it.  It took alot of PH decreaser to get in range , but I was starting with a TA of 230 in our source water.  Also only took 2/3 of the amount of salt suggested to get the chlorine generator working in the right range.   I took another 45 mile drive to the pool and spa store to have them test my water sample and all is good.  Phosphates were 100, but that is way better than over 5000!   I am happy at the moment that everything is in range.  It is supposed to snow tomorrow, and I plan to sit in the tub and watch it snow.......fingers crossed!

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