When 42 people were taken to area hospitals after a poolside chemical spill at a YMCA in Durham, NC, the facility’s worst fears were realized.
Not only did the 2017 sodium hypochlorite – or bleach – spill require 11 units from the Durham Fire Department in addition to the Hazmat team, but six children attending summer camp were determined to be in serious condition.The spill occurred as a result of a mechanical issue, causing the facility’s sodium hypochlorite to unintentionally mix with another chemical. Of the 100 summer campers swimming in the pool that day, those exhibiting symptoms reported choking and vomiting, while others reported sore throats and lightheadedness.
Fire officials noted that symptoms were primarily caused by fumes from the chemical mixture, not exposure of the chemical to water. Each camper who had been admitted to the hospital was released from the hospital the same day, but the damage had already been done – both to the swimmers and the pool’s reputation.
Dangers of Liquid Bleach Systems
Unlike calcium hypochlorite (cal-hypo) systems that eliminate the need for expensive safety systems or secondary spill containment, sodium hypochlorite can be a dangerous and corrosive substance.
Increased safety measures and chlorination risks are commonly associated with liquid bleach systems. The heavy 55-gallon drums containing the substance can be cumbersome to handle and maneuver, and also require gloves and eye protection when handling.
The unstable liquid can be difficult to control, leading to rapid strength degradation and inconsistent chlorination levels that leave swimmers susceptible to the common dangers associated with pH that is either too high or too low. In the case of the Durham YMCA, patients taken to area hospitals were also showing symptoms of skin and eye irritation, a telltale sign of a pool with insufficient pH levels.
A Safer and Simpler Solution
Cal-hypo technology such as the Accu-Tab® Chlorination system reduces the health risks associated with the outbreak in Durham. With solid chemicals, no dual containment is required and the pH-friendly tablets generate consistent strength for reliable control and minimal degradation.