Every year for more than two decades, Shamong resident Bill Reich has driven 25 miles to the same store for his pool supply run ahead of summer.

He could always count on a sale during the month of May, when he'd purchase a 25-pound bucket of chlorine tablets for as low as $55.

So he was shocked to learn on Tuesday during his annual trip that in order to get his hands on that same bucket, he'd have to fork over $189.

"I declined to buy any," Reich said.

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He and many New Jersey consumers trying to get a jump on swimming pool season have picked up on a chlorine shortage that's been bugging the southern part of the country for a while now. The shortage is bound to worsen as demand picks up in New Jersey and other northern states.

Limited supply is the result of a few major factors, including a spike in the popularity and purchase of home swimming pools due to the coronavirus pandemic, and a manufacturing facility fire in Louisiana last summer that's likely to impact chlorine production until 2022.

"I do have a good amount because we ordered early on, but we are expected to run out, honestly, by early summer," said Ashley Gillis, manager at Paradise Pool & Spa in Hamburg.

Gillis said the shop has been paying a higher price for chlorine because of the shortage, and the increase is being passed on to the consumer. Compared to last year, she said, prices at Paradise are about 20% higher right now.

"We're currently limiting our chlorine buckets to one per person, just to be fair," she said.

There's also a one-bucket-per-customer rule in place at The Pool Store, which has three locations across Camden and Gloucester counties.

"We don't want someone coming in and buying four buckets," construction manager Samantha Williamson said. "The paper towels and toilet paper of 2020 — we don't want that to be the tablets this year."

As of now, Williamson said, the shops are not "upcharging" customers for buckets because of the shortage.

"We're anticipating not being able to get them at some point," she added. "Hopefully we still can."

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