- Officials worry chlorine suppliers are prioritizing swimming pools over drinking water, Bloomberg says.
- Amid chlorine shortages, some drinking water plants are running low on vital treatment chemicals.
- Pool construction increased by 23% last year, contributing to a shortage of chlorine tablets.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
Oceanside Water Utilities in California was days away from running out of bleach for its waste- and drinking-water treatment plants last month, Bloomberg Law reported on Monday. If chemical shipments didn't return in time, the water supply for 170,000 people would be at risk.
The Oceanside plant was one of 10 local systems from California, Utah, New Mexico, and New York that requested help from the US Environmental Protection Agency this week, according to Bloomberg.
This led both private and public water plants to apply for federal assistance as their chemical shipments dwindled amid regional chlorine shortages. Requests were filed through section 1441 of the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, something the EPA said they've never seen before.
In a Federal Register notice published Friday, the EPA said all 10 applicants cited "the unavailability of treatment chemical via normal procurement channels" due to chlorine shortages.
"Each of these utilities tried to identify alternate treatment chemical suppliers with no success," the EPA wrote.
Local water officials told Bloomberg's Bobby Magill that they are concerned chlorine suppliers are prioritizing shipments to swimming pools over water plant deliveries.
As the pandemic forced families to stay at home, swimming pool demand surged while chlorine production sank. In 2020, pool construction increased by 23% year-over-year with 96,000 pools being built across the US, according to Goldman Sachs.
The supply of chlorine is still being limited by a Louisiana chlorine plant that caught fire last summer, cutting off a large percentage of the nation's chlorine tablet supply.
BioLab Westlake is currently working to repair the plant - estimated to cost around $170 million. The Chlorine Institute said in a statement that the Louisiana plant will be out of order until 2022.