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A shortage of chlorine is forcing some public swimming pools to close, with operators blaming factors ranging from a drop in production in China to Brexit and war in Ukraine.

Saxon Pool in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, has been closed to general swimmers since May 6, with the operator and Bedfordshire Central Council canceling nearly all sessions apart from swimming lessons and a swimming event.

Users were informed via email: “Unfortunately, due to a national issue, SLL has been unable to secure orders for swimming pool chemicals from Europe, which is essential for make full use of the swimming pool.” According to its website, most users will be unable to swim until more chemicals arrive. The council said deliveries were expected next week.

Runnymede Leisure Center in Benfleet had to close its swimming pool one weekend in April after running out of melclorite, a type of chlorine, which it allegedly sourced from Ukrainian manufacturers.

At the University of East Anglia, the swimming pool closed for five days, with managers citing “severely depleted” levels of chlorine gas in the UK. It reopened on May 10 after a delivery, announcing the good news to users in Tweeter: “Swimming is back.”

Industry experts have pointed to various reasons for supply disruptions.

“Some swimming pool chemical companies are having supply chain challenges,” said Chris Hayes, chief executive of the UK’s Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association.

“These can be attributed to a number of issues including temporarily reduced supply in the UK, a backlog from the Chinese supply chain caused by Covid, a major fire at a US chemical plant at the end of 2020 and transport problems in the world. We are aware that some public pools have had to temporarily close, and chemical suppliers will work with these leisure facilities to review other suitable pool chemicals that can be used.

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The Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group (PWTAG), an independent organization based in the UK, said there was a national shortage of calcium hypochlorite, a solid form of chlorine. This drove prices up 50-60%.

Janice Calvert, chairman of the group, said manufacturing in China has declined, particularly ahead of the Winter Olympics, as Beijing has tightened environmental pollution and closed non-compliant factories.

She added that there was a problem shipping chemicals from China to the UK, with the only route now going through Antwerp. Additionally, INEOS, the main manufacturer of sodium hypochlorite (a liquid form of chloride) in the UK, closed its plant in May and part of June.

As a result of Brexit, chlorine manufacturers must obtain separate regulatory approval for their products in the UK as well as the EU, at an initial cost of £100,000 per product, but approvals only last for 10 years, in a relatively small market. This has led to some suppliers buying from other approved suppliers, meaning there are only two main suppliers left in the UK, PWTAG said.

The Chemical Business Association said: “The horrific situation in Ukraine has further taken its toll on an already severely disrupted chemical supply chain due to factors such as Covid, Brexit or driver shortages.”

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