We were 30 minutes away from draining our 200,000-gallon aquatic center pool.

I was out of ideas.

I glanced down at the bottom of the pool — and no longer could I see the black paw prints painted on the bottom of the 12-foot deep end.

This was clearly not safe for swimmers, and we would have to close for a second day in a row, but would we have to drain and start over?

When I had first noticed our water turbidity issue three days prior, I immediately took a water sample to a local pool supply shop. The sample was analyzed, and the pH measured 7.7 and the water tested hard. I was advised to add several products, including sodium bicarbonate, muriatic acid and a miracle water clarifying agent. This only helped a little. The problem remained. 

Next, I visited another pool supply store. They analyzed my water sample and made similar recommendations (also including the miracle water clarifying agent, of course), but were unable to give me any specific answers as to exactly what the problem was.

So there I stood, alongside our parks director, three public works employees and our city’s public relations director. I was supposed to be the expert among us, but I didn’t have a solution. As we began considering draining the pool, I racked my brain for any other possibilities.

I happened to remember the name of a local aquatics director I had met at a recent training. This being a Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t surprised when the front desk attendant told me he wasn’t in. With my pool getting worse by the hour, I gave her my phone number and asked her to have him call me back as soon as possible. Five minutes later he did, and I explained my situation. I was relieved to hear him say that he had dealt with the same situation two years prior. 

Though my pool's pH was in the 7.6 to 7.7 range, he recommended keeping it at 7.2 to 7.3 with water as hard as ours. Not long after slowly and safely adding a good dosage of muriatic acid and getting the pH down, the black paw prints on the bottom became visible again, and have been crystal clear ever since.  


1. Never underestimate the value of networking. The answer is out there, and meeting as many people as you can ensures that you will know someone who has the answer. 

2. Change only one variable at a time. When I added numerous chemicals and the water cleared up only slightly, I

was unable to tell if the

minor improvement was a result of the chemicals added and, if so, which ones.

3. Know your water. Not only should you test the pool water, but you should periodically test the tap water to see what the water is like going in. I was previously unaware of it, but our city had started treating the water that entered our pool differently than in the previous year, which may have contributed to its hardness.


Brandon Eckhardt is the recreation specialist in aquatics at the Willard Aquatic Center in Willard, Mo. He has been in the aquatics field for 10 years, working as a lifeguard and pool manager.