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Draining the neglected swamp like pool

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What does it take to clean out a pool that was shut down and neglected for a couple of years?  

The problem – A badly neglected pool.

In June 2016, I was facing a 20,000 gallon in ground pool that, because of a couple of years of neglect, resembled a swamp. When I say swamp, I mean frogs had taken over and there were dozens of frogs along with hundreds of tadpoles. I’m not sure what else was in there as the visibility was about 2 inches. My GF had suggested filling it in. When I looked into it it seemed to be unfeasible. I would need to get a permit, rent heavy equipment and purchase fill. In addition, most townships prohibit any future building over a filled in pool. Besides, I like to take a swim. (See the end of this post – I revised my thoughts on keeping the pool)

I tried hundreds of dollars worth of shock and other chemicals to no avail. The best I could do was to have a pool with a deathly dark grey hue for a day or so. Then it would revert to swamp green.

Fortunately that June had been fairly dry. I decided that the only course of action was to empty the pool completely.

A badly neglected pool
A badly neglected pool

Preparation for draining

Pool before draining and after several years of neglect.

I realized that I could probably not empty it using the filter pump. I purchased a clear water pump at Harbor Freight for something like $150. Notice I said “Clear water”.  A 1″ rigid hose is hideously expensive. I rigged up an intake pipe with 1″ PVC. That worked fine. However, the hose I connected to the outlet was a joke. It kept splitting which resulted in comical geysers of swamp water.

I purchased a pump hose from Harbor Freight that has held up very well.

Gasoline pump to drain the pool
Gasoline pump to drain the pool

Draining the pool

I had the pool filter set to ‘waste’. In order to keep suction, I ran a hose to the skimmer intake. That kept enough water so that the skimmer didn’t start sucking air.

The water level is beginning to drop
The water level is beginning to drop

It took a couple of hours but the water level kept dropping until we got near the end. The waterline at the shallow end was finally below the steps. 

Water level dropping below the steps
Water level dropping below the steps

The water finally got down to the level of the sump. The bottom was covered with dead algae and slime

Most of the water is drained from the pool
Most of the water is drained from the pool

The remainder was a slimy, gelatinous muck that we could not pump out with the clear water pump or an electric sump pump. There was probably 50 to 100 gallons remaining.  My son tried a wet vac but that didn’t work that well. He also emptied quite a bit by filling five gallon buckets and carrying them out of the pool.  (yes, the electric came from a GFCI outlet)

The remainder was more muck than water
The remainder was more muck than water

The remaining muck had to be removed by scooping it out and using a shop vac

Using a shop vac to remove the last of the muck
Using a shop vac to remove the last of the muck

Finishing touches

While I was at it, I replaced the out of code sump guard with an anti-vortex safety guard.

Installing an anti vortex drain
Installing an anti vortex drain

Re-filling the pool

Now it was time to rack up a couple of hundred dollars of water usage. Filling a 20,000 gallon pool with a garden hose took about 2 days.

Beginning to refill the pool
Beginning to refill the pool

There was finally enough water to run the filter. That was totally unnecessary but it looked cool.

Running the filter while filling the pool
Running the filter while filling the pool

Results

We finally had a pool where you could actually swim and not worry about getting some weird swamp disease.

Finally, a clean pool
Finally, a clean pool

As you can see from the photos, the pool needs a lot of work. The bond-beam is broken in spots. The deck is a half-assed collection of patio blocks. The tiles are cracked which is a result of the bad bond beam.  The other problem is that trees in my yard and my neighbor’s yard shade the pool. There are a couple of possible solutions.

  • Rebuild the pool and enclose it. I’m already good looking but when I become wealthy and good looking I might try this.
  • Try solar heating the pool. Unfortunately, in spite of being on 2 1/2 acres, there isn’t a good place to install the panels.
  • Run the gas pool heater and sign my checks over to the utility company.
  • Fire up Mr. Chainsaw and at least drop the trees on my property which would give me some additional sun each day

Lessons learned

  • Don’t let the pool become a swamp.
  • At some point, you can throw all the chemicals you want at the problem but you will still have a problem.
  • If someone is installing an in ground pool think about the stinking trees. They grow. When they grow they cause additional shade for the pool.
  • The draining operation was a lot of work.
  • I need to look at getting the pool re plastered and the coping, tiles and bond beam repaired.

Update November 2019

The pool has once again reverted back to nature. The location was poorly selected when it was built 50 years ago. Debris from the surrounding trees makes maintenance a nightmare. The trees prevent solar heating except for perhaps two weeks out of the year. The bond beam needs serious work and it should be re-lined. There is too much other work to allow me to maintain it. Having a service to clean it would mean spending money that could be used elsewhere. Not having to run the pump and fill it is saving even more money.

We were talking with some people and they got a quote for about $4000 to fill a similar sized pool. So, I am going to raise the white flag and surrender. When I get the money set aside, I’ll get it filled in. When you do that, you need to get a permit in most towns.

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One Response to Draining the neglected swamp like pool

  • If you’re going to tackle draining out a pool that resembles a swamp, you would definitely need something on the more powerful side–along with a lot of patience as well as extra manpower to be able to clean it out! Leaving a pool alone neglected would definitely turn it into some kind of swamp monster paradise especially happy for a lot of bullfrogs and other amphibians and the like, so getting a pool pump to do the job is always a good thing. If I had a pool like that… to be honest I’d keep it drained until I want to use it again! https://usa.speck-pumps.com/pool-products/

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