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Friday, June 11, 2010

The Pool, Company #2

OK, so I was finished with pool company #1, sort of. I decided that what I really wanted to do was get the most reputable company I could find. The biggest place in my part of the world seems to be P_____Pools, so I'd try them. I called on a Tuesday and talked to a very nice lady in customer service. I told her my whole sob story and she said that she'd explain my problem to the head technician and see what he said then she'd get back to me in a couple of days. Fine by me. She left me a message two days later, as promised. Only thing is that what she said in the message was that they could go ahead and book the pool inspection I'd asked about but in order to proceed they'd need my credit card number. I figured there'd been a misunderstanding somewhere and guessed that what the technician had recommended was a full pool inspection. That's $350, plus tax. I wasn't ready just yet to book that and was getting ready for a long weekend away so I didn't call back. The next week I did call back, because I'd had a little time to think and I was ready to go ahead. Customer service wasn't too happy with me. They said I'd booked the technician's time for my inspection and then he couldn't come out because I didn't give them my credit card. This was not what I understood but I let it go in order to move on to what I thought was the real problem....the pool. I asked for the pool inspection, which included a written report of the findings (which was explicitly spelled out in their flyer which is why I felt safe proceeding after getting nothing out of company #1). I was told that they'd have the technician call me directly to book a time rather than going back and forth on the phone with me. They'd tentatively book me for the following Tuesday though, just to have me on the schedule, and when he called I could tell him what day and time I actually wanted. Sounded fair enough. Monday morning arrived and I hadn't received a call. This had me freaking out since I was envisioning a repeat of my last experience. Throughout the day I called customer service over fifteen times and left three messages and not only did I not get through, no one called me back. I even had other people call the company and try to get through but that didn't work either. Long story short and a lot of "he said, she said" later, Kevin, Service Manager for P_____Pools arrived at my house Tuesday afternoon. Within five minutes of being in my backyard he knew exactly what was wrong with my pool. All feelings of doubt about how I was handling company #1 vanished. They'd been to my place twice and dealt with me for three weeks and couldn't give me a straight answer. Needless to say, I was peeved.

The findings were as follows; the liner is old and needs replacing (this much I knew), the skimmer is at least 18 years old and isn't made any more. It's also not the right size and may be cracked. The pressure test revealed that my return lines have a serious leak and one of my jets may be cracked but he couldn't really tell since the water was still green. We discussed the options for replacing the coping on the pool when the liner was replaced and options of every combination of scenarios. He cut my return line and glued on a new pipe which was then run across the grass and taped to my ladder in order to make the system functional enough to run so that my neighbors wouldn't call the city to complain about the smell. The weather had warmed up enough by this point that the pool was wafting a pungent odor which, although it wasn't too bad yet, promised to be unbearable if the weather kept up. I was instructed to start scooping the remains of what pool company #1 had left on the bottom of my pool and backwash twice a day, leaving it on filter the rest of the time. The estimated cost of repairs? $3,000 to $10,000 depending on how I wanted to go about it. This should have made me miserable but it didn't. The very fact that I was making progress and that someone was finally helping me figure this whole thing out actually had me ecstatic.

I prepared to start scooping but it rained the whole rest of the week, of course. By Sunday the forecast showed clear weather for Monday and Tuesday, which was perfect since garbage day for me is Wednesday and as luck would have it it was an unlimited garden waste week. With the advice of my neighbors, who have almost the exact same pool that I do, I spread paper garden waste bags over the lawn, bought a leaf rake and started working. From Sunday evening to Tuesday morning I scooped out five garden bags worth of debris. The smell of this muck as it baked in the sun to try and dry out enough to put to the curb was a cross between dead cat and backed up toilet. I've had the unfortunate pleasure of smelling both of those things and feel my assessment is fairly accurate. Among the things that pool company #1 left behind? Two ten pound weights in the bottom of the shallow end. Pretty hard to miss, even without visibility. They were used to hold the defunct winter cover in place and must have fallen in at some point. I now know there is probably another one in the deep end as well. I'd mistakenly thought the item I kept hitting with the rake down there was the bottom drain but my neighbor has informed me that my pool doesn't have a main drain.

My daughter thought this whole muck retrieval process was fascinating and it became a cross between a nature documentary and science experiment as we examined the contents of the muck for the various bugs that had been breeding, hatching or otherwise living at the bottom of the pool. She made it her mission to save a particular brand of quasi beetle thing until I explained that the bugs were feeding all the local birds. They found the layer of drying muck very appealing and would root around for tasty morsels as soon as I was at a safe distance. This was all very "circle of life" and made her feel much better about the fact that I was murdering innocent insects.

By this point I've added 30L or liquid chlorine to the pool and it's stopped smelling and turned a lighter shade of green. I now estimate that there is about and inch of visibility. The chlorine still barely registers when I do a home water test but the ph is almost off the chart. I decide that I'll go out and buy a flocculating chemical to try and bind all the suspended particles together to make clearing the water easier.

Tuesday evening I raced to roll up the not quite dry enough muck piles and get them into the appropriate containers for garbage pick up the next morning. While I did this, with my bare hands, spitting into the grass when I'd inadvertently splashed myself with brown water so as not to ingest anything horrible; I thought back to my youth and how disgusting I used to think it was that my father would scoop out the contents of the skimmer basket of our pool with his bare hands. Oh how far I'd fallen. Tuesday night it poured with rain and that rain continued through Wednesday. I was worried sick that the garbage collectors would refuse to take my pool waste as the rain would have made them heavier than the weight limit. When I came home Wednesday afternoon to find that they'd taken every last bit of waste I was so happy I could have cried. Since adding the flocculating chemical the day before, the pool has started to foam up once again. This time the foam is white. Unable to scoop it off the pool surface with any success I search the internet. Common opinion has it that this is probably caused by inferior chemicals. You mean I shouldn't be buying the cheap stuff from the local hardware store? It sounds reasonable but I'm hesitant to believe that the chemicals from a variety of stores are really that different. I'll probably regret that thought later.

By this point I still really didn't know all that much about my pool's setup. I knew enough to turn it on in the morning and how to backwash it. I knew that I needed to vacuum but the skimmer line didn't seem to be sucking any water. There are two pipes coming into my pool pump and filter. The previous owner had marked on the wall "Sk" over one line and "Back" over the other. The "Sk" seemed straightforward enough, it must be the skimmer line and, since it's valve was closed, that would explain why the skimmer wasn't sucking water. The other line, which was open, had me stumped. I figured it could only be the main drain at the bottom of the deep end, but couldn't figure out why company #1 had left it open and not the skimmer since surely you wouldn't want to be sucking water from the dirtiest part of the pool, would you? I asked my neighbor to come over and have a look. This was when he explained that I don't have a drain at the bottom of my pool. He told me it must be a vacuum line. I'd never heard of such a thing, but, since I suspected that the skimmer line was damaged (I'd tried to open the valve to get it started repeatedly only to have the pump promptly lose prime each time) this sounded like good news because it meant I could still vacuum. My neighbor even searched the interior of the pool walls for me until he located the mysterious vacuum line a couple feet from the skimmer in the wall of the deep end. He also told me I needed to make fixing the liner a priority. If I didn't he was afraid that the sags would keep getting bigger until I had real problems. I now knew the entire setup of my system and I had a plan. I was ready to attack.

The very next day I received a bill in the mail from company #1. The bill totaled $640. Do you know what it said in the notes? "Your pool is now up and running" and "Your pool opening and start up are now complete." Excuse me? I made a mental note to ask the lawyer about how to handle this. I'd also received the report from P____Pools. It wasn't as complete as I was lead to believe but it had a basic run down of the needed repairs. I'd have to request a full estimate from them if I wanted more info. This was annoying but since they'd only charged me $204.75 (tax included) rather than the $350 plus tax I'd thought I'd owe them, I figured I didn't mind so much. I emailed the lawyer who handled my house closing to ask about drafting a letter to the seller requesting payment for the necessary repairs since they had guaranteed everything pool related. I also ventured to P____Pools to have my water tested, pay my bill and source parts and equipment. While I was driving to the pool store I received a voice message from the utility company that supplies my water. They wanted to know if there was something wrong at my house since my current water usage was three times my usual amount. I had to call them back to explain that the only thing that was "wrong" was my pool. To add insult to injury with the whole pool company #1 issue, when I got the water test results from P_____Pools they said I needed ph down and chlorine. I was confused and asked if they'd measured my calcium levels. They said that yes, they had and my levels were within normal. I told them that another company had sold me $70 worth of calcium that I apparently needed. They said I should try and get my money back. Now, I don't know if the sequence of events somehow affected the calcium levels of my pool but I'm currently not very happy about the 20kg pail of calcium currently lounging in my pool shed. When all was said and done I went to my night school class and planned to start fresh in the morning.

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