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A controversial bill that has been called “The Trichlor Tax” has been postponed after pushback from California pool industry professionals.
Senator Ben Allen, a Democrat from Santa Monica, introduced SB 676, a bill that aimed to authorize a local tax on specific swimming pool chemicals. However, the bill has been postponed until 2024. If passed, the bill would have allowed local public entities to impose a tax of up to $0.30 per tablet on trichlor tablets purchased at retail stores. The revenue generated from the tax would have been used for public education on the proper use of trichlor tablets in commercial and residential pool settings, as well as local water conservation efforts.
“This bill would authorize a county to levy a tax by ordinance, approved by a 1/2 vote of the electors, at a rate of no more than $0.30 per tablet, on the sale within its jurisdiction of trichlor tablets, as defined. The bill would require a county imposing such a tax to contract with the department to administer the tax and would require the ordinance levying the tax to sunset no later than 5 years after its effective date unless the ordinance is extended by the electors, as specified. The bill would require a retailer engaged in business in a county that has an operative ordinance enacted pursuant to the bill to collect the tax from the consumer at the point of sale and would require the retailer to remit the tax to the department. The bill would require the department to allocate the tax revenues, as specified, and would require the county to expend those revenues for purposes of public education related to proper use of trichlor tablets in commercial and residential pool settings and local water conservation.”
During the recent meeting at the Western Pool & Spa Show, the CPSA Board of Directors unanimously voted against the bill after a spirited discussion. Discussions with the bill’s sponsor, HASA, revealed that amendments were being considered to expand the authority to dichlor tablets, as well as granular and stick forms of the products.
While the bill would not have applied to wholesale sales, concerns were still expressed by board members that it could set a bad precedent, and that the bill was premature since there had been no discussion with the industry on this topic.
With legislative policy committee deadlines quickly approaching in April, the decision was made to turn SB 676 into a two-year bill, meaning it will not move forward in 2023 but will still be eligible for consideration in 2024. This delay provides an opportunity for a broader debate within the industry regarding this topic.
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Pool News coverage brought to you by Pool Magazine’s own Marcus Packer. Marcus Packer is a 20 year pool industry veteran pool builder and pool service technician. In addition to being a swimming pool professional, Marcus has been a writer and long time contributor for Newsweek Magazine’s home improvement section and more recently for Florida Travel + Life. Have a story idea or tip you’d like to share with Pool Magazine? Email [email protected] your story idea.
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The Independent Pool and Spa Service Association (IPSSA) continues to grow and has created more opportunities for its members and chapters to earn recognition and prizes. IPSSA now offers three awards designed specifically for service professionals that are members.
The newest of these awards is called The Pool Professional of Tomorrow Award to be awarded to any member that demonstrates a commitment to the growth and future of the pool service industry through the activities within their chapter and community. Designed specifically for newer members, applicants must be active in the industry for less than 10 years. The winner receives a $500 prize and travel accommodations to the annual Weekend of Inspiration event in 2024.
Additionally, the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association has expanded its well-known Terry Cowles Lifetime achievement award. Established in 2006, the award for individuals was established for those with over 10 years of active service in IPSSA and provides a cash award and complimentary tickets to the annual banquet event. The new Chapter of the Year Award provides a first, second and third place award that includes cash funds for the chapter as well as complimentary tickets and hotel accommodations for chapter members to the organization’s Weekend of Inspiration event.
Those interested in applying for these awards, please contact Rose Smoot ([email protected]) for details on the nomination criteria. Submissions must be received by September 1, 2023 to be considered for the awards. Since its inception in 1988, IPSSA was established to promote educational opportunities and provide business support and resources to its members. These awards are part of the organizations continued desire to engage members and the criteria reflect the organization’s core values of community, education and support of all IPSSA members. More information about how to join a chapter can be found on their website, the official Facebook page, or by calling 888-360-9505.
The news of BioLab’s plant burning to the ground during Hurricane Laura in 2020 had a ripple effect on chlorine prices that has lasted for the past two years. We first reported that BioLab was rebuilding the plant back in July of 2021. A recent announcement that construction is completed and in time for summer production has pool industry analysts optimistic. “We are delighted to reopen our BioLab facility in time to support the 2023 pool season,” said Michael Sload, CEO of KIK Consumer Products.
BioLab is the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of dry chlorine products. An announcement that the Westlake, Louisiana facility is fully operational means that one of the driving factors for the initial spike we saw on the price of chlorine has been removed. Prices for dry chlorine products soared in 2021 due to concerns about shortages and remained high through the summer of 2022.
The conditions for a sudden surge in the price for chlorine stemmed partly from the fact that BioLab was out of commission. The main factor that was driving prices to explode during the past two years was largely due to the pandemic in general.
A large percentage of the population was quarantined, which meant more people than ever before, were at home and using their swimming pool. This put a much higher glut on demand than anticipated. With the pandemic shutting many plants down, and logistical delays plaguing distributors throughout most of 2021, these conditions as well as rising inflation in 2022 kept prices high through the summer.
The reopening of the BioLab facility will certainly impact the supply chain in a positive way. “BioLab will be actively supplying the pool market for the 2023 season which should provide some relief,” said plant manager Donald Brunette.
Prices are predicted to begin dropping a bit in light of that fact but will certainly not sink lower than they were prior to the pandemic. As the population starts to adjust to a post-Covid world, the surge we saw for swimming pools has already begun to recalibrate to pre-pandemic levels. The only remaining catalyst for keeping chlorine prices from truly resetting back to 2020 is the cumulative rate of inflation is roughly 14.7% higher than in 2020.
While this should certainly factor into the equation, most experts agree that with this news, the chlorine shortage is finally over and a bucket of chlorine tablets should cost substantially less next summer than it has in previous years. This comes as welcome news for both consumers and pool professionals.
One of the specialty chemicals being talked about a lot in light of the chlorine shortages and rising prices are borates. As strong proponents of borates, it troubles us to say that our go-to sanitzer supplement may soon be facing the same shortages and rising costs that we’ve been seeing on the trichlor side.
If you’re in the pool business you already know, borates are becoming increasingly difficult to find. What inventory is available is vastly more expensive than in previous years. We’re already knee-deep into the dog days of summer and prices for chlorine have skyrocketed well past analysts’ projections.
A lot of pool service professionals have been turning to borates as the savior during this time of inflation and rising prices. Many technicians already use borates as a buffer against upwards shifting pH. When your pH level rises above what is deemed “normal” (about 7.8), using borates achieves optimum results.
Bacteria can thrive in water with a high pH level. When this happens it makes chlorine less effective. Pool professionals use borates to alleviate the issue, because it works to keep pH from drifting upward. In addition, there are other positive aspects to using borates in your pool. For one, it keeps the pool clear of algae and calcium scaling. Pool equipment repair specialists will be the first ones to recommend borates. When it comes to maintaining ideal water chemistry for your pool equipment, borates does an amazing job.
For the past few years, the adoption of borates by pool pros has steadily increased season after season. The concern now is that we may have hit maximum capacity as demand has increased well beyond available inventory.
The global boron market shortage is driving prices higher this season. For those who’ve been thinking of switching to using borates, this definitely is something to consider. When it comes to getting trichlor at affordable rates, it already feels that pool pros are a lower priority as far as it goes to maintaining pricing structures. Now, it appears the same thing has begun happening with borates.
Although borates and boric acid are near synonymous with pools, the swimming pool industry itself is actually a lower priority in terms of its consumption of boron. The industrial glass industry is the largest consumer of boron, roughly 48%, followed by the ceramics industry (15%) and agricultural industry (15%); the cleaning industry of which the pool industry represents a fraction consumes roughly 2% of the world’s boron.
You’ll find boron in everything from industrial fertilizers to high-end ceramics and solar panels. Boron also has medical applications which improve wound healing and boosts the body’s usage of estrogen, testosterone, and vitamin D. It improves magnesium absorption, reduces inflammation, increases antioxidants, and boosts brain electrical activity in both cognitive performance as well as short-term memory.
What is absolutely certain is that we (the pool industry) didn’t cause a borates shortage. Clearly, demand is higher in these other industries which are causing prices to surge. Right now the boron supply chain is very weak. Over 60% of the material comes from mines located in Turkey which is the top producer, followed by Russia, South America and the United States.
For the time being, production is gradually declining. As existing boron reserves deplete, we’re seeing demand far exceed supplies, resulting in higher prices such as $1,250 per ton, far exceeding analysts’ predictions for $739 per ton.
While the demand in the U.S. by pool professionals may be high, the top consumer of boron is China, followed by India and Japan. Boron is produced domestically only in the State of California and it appears very little of it is earmarked towards maintaining supply chains for borates.
The story isn’t all doom and gloom for pool professionals who want to switch to borates. Fortunately, folks like Natural Chemistry, Brenntag, and others are still intent on keeping inventory on the shelves so you should still be able to find their products through distribution. If they don’t have borates available, demand that they replenish their stock. This may be the only way to guarantee the pool industry remains a priority at all.
Listen to our entire discussion on the Talking Pools podcast.
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