Freeway construction, wind may threaten  Ahwatukee pools Foothills Pool Care and Repair

Damien Ludwig, left, works with his father, Jeff Ludwig, owner of Foothills Pool Care and Repair. They’ve been forced to tell at least 10 clients to drain their pools because they’ve been contaminated by harmful nitrates that are resistant to chlorine treatment.

Some Ahwatukee homeowners with swimming pools are reaping a costly new headache that the owner of a local pool-cleaning company theorizes are the result of a combination of windy weather, the community’s historic roots and the South Mountain Freeway construction.

Jeff Ludwig, owner of Foothills Pool Care & Repair, said in recent weeks he has had to tell about 10 of his customers to drain their pool after it turned green and failed to respond to chlorine treatments.

The pools contained heavy concentrations of nitrates and phosphates that had been used to fertilize the old farmland that Ahwatukee and the region south of the community sits on.

Ludwig believes they have been stirred up by freeway construction and have become airborne during the often windy weather the Valley has seen in the last few months.

Phosphates and nitrates feed algae and are all but immune to chlorine, said Ludwig. A buildup of nitrates also can cause health problems.

After he discovers that a pool has been contaminated, he’s had to tell affected owners he can’t do anything until the drain it.

“They’re not happy about it,” said Ludwig, who runs the business with his son Damien. “One lady refused and I told her she’d have to call someone else. I told her ‘you’re paying a monthly fee and if I keep dumping chlorine in there when it doesn’t do any good, I’ll be ending up in the red,” Ludwig said.

If the pool isn’t treated with chlorine, algae quickly sets in, turning the water green and eventually unusable while becoming a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes.

And if the pool has to be drained, owners must shell out a $200 drainage fee, $70 to treat with it with new chemicals and the cost of water.

“It’s crazy. When I tell a customer they have to drain their pool, they look at me like I’m nuts. I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Ludwig, who has been in Ahwatukee since 1994.

He added that up until this year, he can remember having to drain only one pool — back in 1998.

Ludwig said most of the pools are located between 28th and 48th streets, and that there’s no rhyme or reason to the way the nitrates settle.

“There could be a cluster of maybe four or six pools and two near each other have it and then way down the street, another one would be affected,” he said.

“Even if they have a cover on it, it can still get into the water,” he added.

Another concern on the horizon is impending sunny, hot weather that can damage unfilled plastic-lined pools in a relatively short amount of time, Ludwig said.

“The pebble pools don’t get affected as much, but the plastic will crack in the heat and sun,” he explained.

Ludwig said he has been taking water samples to Leslie’s Pool Supplies Service and Repair to have it tested, and that’s how he discovered the problem.

“A lot of these pool cleaning companies don’t know about it because you’ve got a lot of people now who get into this business without much training or experience,” Ludwig said, adding that pool owners who question why chlorine treatments aren’t doing anything to keep their water clean and clear also should go get it tested.

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