Lake Charles fire partly to blame for ‘worst chlorine shortage the country has ever seen’

A chemical fire burns BioLab in Westlake, near Lake Charles, in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

A fire last August in south Louisiana during Hurricane Laura is being blamed in part for creating “the worst chlorine shortage the country has ever seen”—much to the dismay of swimming pool owners, The Washington Post reports.

The newspaper notes chlorine prices have shot up about 58% from June through August compared to the same period in 2020, according to IHS Markit data cited in a Goldman Sachs report on the chemical shortage.

The fire destroyed BioLab in Lake Charles—one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of chlorine tablets. The plant is operated by Canadian chemical conglomerate KIK, whose products include Clorox pool-chlorinating tablets, chlorine stabilizer, BioGuard Smart Shock blue algae-killing crystals and others.

“If there hadn’t had been that (Louisiana) fire, we might be in good shape—there would still be tight supply, but that kind of put it over the edge,” Chris Anderson, president of Dover Pools, tells The Washington Post.

The Washington Post reports the chlorine shortage is compounded by the fact that the pandemic apparently drove demand for backyard pools: The number of new in-ground residential pools nationwide rose 21% in 2020 compared to 2019. Hot tubs are also in demand, with some areas reporting a 400% increase, according to the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance.

KIK tells the newspaper the company plans to complete a $170 million reconstruction and expansion of the plant by spring of 2022. The project will allow the plant to operate at a 30% greater production capacity.