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Ask a Pool Guy

John Dugan, of Manhattan-based pool-maintenance company American Pool Enterprises, has seen a lot of scum lines, but no drowned rats.


Illustration by Zoey Kelemen  

How are New York City pools different from other pools?
The water here is extremely metallic. Coming down from 100 miles north, it picks up a lot of metals—iron, copper—from all the piping. So when you fill a swimming pool here, they fill dark green—where you can’t even see the bottom.

How do you fix the color?
A lot of filtration. Usually it takes three days of filtration and treatment before it’s 100 percent blue and looking like you would want to go swimming in it.

What’s the grossest thing you’ve found in a pool?
That’s easy—a dead mouse. I’ve never seen a rat; I don’t know why. The mice, they get in during the night and get caught in the filters. They bloat up, the hair falls out, and they smell awful. But actually, compared to the suburbs, New York is pretty clean as far as pools go. You don’t get the leaves and the dirt. It’s pretty easy to keep the pools clean here, minus the water line.

The water line?
It surrounds the perimeter of the pool. In the city, it tends to get really grimy-looking. As people swim, their suntan lotion, the oil, comes off their bodies, sits on top of the water, and rubs up against the side of the pool. Like a bathroom ring.

Why is the scum line worse here?
The dirt in the air just turns it black.

Do you have a pool?
I don’t. The last thing I want to do when I’m not working is see a pool. When I go home, my friends are like, “Can you help fix my pool?” I enjoy my job, but at the end of the day, it’s like a chef who goes home at night and doesn’t want to cook.


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