Leaking Inground Swimming Pool Eyeball Return


I was helping a friend winterize the inground pool at a house he recently bought for the first time. The pool is 5 years old. I've never winterized a pool before, but have done large boats and did a good bit of research on how to do it correctly.
We used air fro a shop vac to blow out the lines. All 5 return lines with eyeball fittings were slightly under water. As I understand it, the usual procedure is to remove the eyeball part of the fitting, blow the lines with air, then with the air continuing to flow you insert one of the rubber stopper plugs into the pipe opening and tighten the wing nut, sealing it off. The eyeballs on this particular pump have a male pipe thread on the part protruding from the pool wall and a female wring with the eyeball that screws on.
We did that, but here's the problem. There was still a fair amount of air bubbles coming out no matter how much I tightened the plugs, which of course I thought was due to the plug not sealing. However, upon close inspection, the air bubbles ARE NOT coming from where the stopper goes in the pipe. That is sealed. They are coming from where the male threaded end of the return fitting disappears into the cover plate that goes on the vinyl liner. Same thing is happening with the 2 that are on the fiberglass steps. The only return that did seal correctly was the one for the Polaris cleaner and that one worked perfectly.
So, I'm thinking that the return fittings must be cracked, possibly from previous failure to winterize correctly? But all 5 the same way? Also. I don;t know exactly how these are installed, plumbed, etc, but it would look like they aren't going to be easy to replace. Is there something else I'm missing here? One additional factor. There has been very fine sand showing up consistenly on the white pool steps all season, just below the 2 returns there. About every 3 days, it becomes clearly visible and needs to be brushed off. I have been suspicious for some time that something was not right. The pool has a DE filter, we have taken it apart in the past, inspected it, and it looks fine. On the other hand, the pool doesn't seem to be losing water beyond what I would think could be attributed to evaporation. So, if they are leaking, the leaks must be very small.
Also, I'm thinking that from a winterizing standpoint we may be OK because while the air bubbles may be coming from a small crack in the fitting/pipe, if water goes back the other way, it would seem that most or all of it is going to just seep into the ground outside the pool? Also, it would seem the pipe/fitting would be more likely to leak with air pressure inside tending to open any crack, rather than from water from outside the pipe coming back inside.
Any thoughts? TIA
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On Nov 16, 7:52am, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

I figured it out. We had only removed PART of the eyeball fitting. It consists of a ring, eyeball, and EYEBALL SOCKET. The latter part looks like the threads of a short pipe nipple, but has the seating for the eyeball. We thought it was part of the fitting in the pool wall. It has to be removed with a special tool that locks inside in grooves and allows you to unscrew it. Then you are left with a regular 1 1/2" female pipe fitting, which the rubber expansion plugs will seal.
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On Nov 16, 7:52am, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

SOP in freezing climes according to my ex-pool service is to drain the pool below the outlets before blowing out the lines.
I use a shop vac (takes awhile), but it can't quite blow the line from the skimmer to the bottom "drain" (it isn't a drain). Just barely need a compressor for that.
The fee for pool winterizing is a bargain if you watch and learn what they do. At $100 including chemicals and a "if it breaks we'll fix it" guarantee it's a bargain anyway.
I only do it myself because timing getting all the leaves out and the water balanced and stabilized is a real bitch for a pool in the woods on top of a hill. -----
- gpsman
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