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Somewhere around the wood paneling/enclosure or in the next room, you should find an access port to get access to your tub's pump unit. It won't be as large as those used on outdoor swimming pools. (I'm in a split-level house, and my tub's pump unit is accessible behind the mirror in the half-bath that sits 1/2-level down and adjacent to the master bath. I located it by running the pump and listening for the noise it makes.) I recommend checking the pump to see if it uses a small holding tank with built-in filter. If so, check the filter basket - remove it, clean it out, and reinstall it.
Otherwise, I'm at a loss as to how leaves would get in there. The whirlpool piping connects only to the tub's outlets and the pump. Water comes in via the faucet and goes out via the drain - the pump and piping do nothing more than circulate the water.
I hope this helps some - regards! Jim D/Heathsville, VA
I'm at a loss as to how leaves would get into the system. I know the mulching is probably caused by the pump's impeller - that's the part that spins and forces the water out of the jets in the tub walls. If it was fine last year and now has leaves in it this year, something had to happen to compromise the system.
It's certainly possible your tub is vented from the outside. I don't know if that would be a standard installation technique or not. If so, I don't see how you'd be able to adjust the amount of air the system draws into it. Also, I'd think the size of the vent would be fairly small - the one on my tub is only about 1/2-inch in diameter and it feeds a 1-inch diameter pipe. Have you walked around outside the house while the whirpool is operating to see if you can find an outside vent?
Good luck with this - without being able to look at it in person, I don't think I can offer you much help. Regards! Jim D/Heathsville, VA