The Cape CodYMCAhas remained closed weeks after a hazmat incident occurred that sent seven children to the hospital.
According to David Procopio, a Massachusetts State Police spokesperson, two girls — a 9-yearold and 10-year-old — were flown by medical helicopter for treatment in Boston hospitals. One of the girls was in critical but stable condition at the time of the October 7th incident.
Following the incident, authorities provided clearance for the facility to reopen, but after hours of deliberation, YMCA personnel decided to begin an investigation as to the cause.
Preliminary reports pointed to a chemical spill that may have mixed with other chemicals in an equipment room near the swimming pool. This caused a noxious gas release that children between the ages of 6 and 10 breathed in and began to cough and vomit.
After a two-week investigation by aquatic safety experts, YMCA personnel now believes the accident was caused by exposure to a noxious gas, brought about by a combination of factors that resulted in an accidental mixing of muriatic acid and residual granular chlorine inside the pipes of the filtration system.
Their investigation was unable to find any evidence that the cause of this accident was a chemical spill.
The YMCA reports that the automated chemical feeder system had not been operating properly and although they repeatedly requested repairs from several pool vendors, they had not been able to get it fixed in a timely manner. As a result, they had been manually adding chemicals to keep pool water quality within acceptable ranges. The manual process had been done during the times the pool was closed.
So, while they waited for the chemical feeder system to get fixed, they were following industry standards for manual dosing, which is to close the pool, dilute the chemicals, and add them directly into the pool. The pool then remained closed for one hour. This process would repeat until pool water quality was within acceptable ranges.
On the morning of October 7th, granular chlorine was added into the filtration system. Later in the day, muriatic acid was added into the filtration system. It is now believed the granular chlorine had not yet dissolved inside the system. When the two chemicals mixed, noxious gas was released into the deep end of the pool where the seven children were swimming.
As of October 20th, the automated pool chemical feeder system has been repaired. Moving forward, anytime a manual dosing is needed the pool will be closed.
A pool service provider will conduct additional onsite training for the YMCA Cape Cod team on the automated chemical controller and chemical dosing system.
YMCA Cape Cod has partnered with YMCA of Greater Boston’s Aquatics Specialist and are actively working on development of updated chemical guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOP’s).
SeveralemployeeswillbecomeCPO (Certified Pool Operator) certified.
Prior to opening their pool, they will be submitting these findings to the State and Local Boards of Health and will need their full clearance before determining a date and time of the pool reopening.
“We as an organization have been collectively devastated by this accident,” YMCA Cape Cod said in a statement. “We offer our most sincere apologies to all who have been impacted. Our first priority is the health and safety of our members and the children in our care.”
According to the YMCA, all children have since recovered and have returned to the YMCA after school program.