CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — More than a dozen people were taken to the hospital after a scary hazmat situation at a neighborhood swimming pool in Chesterfield.
Chesterfield Fire and EMS crews responded to a call around 11:20 a.m. on Wednesday, June 15, saying there was a weird smell coming from the 8600 block of Pullman Lane — the location of Harpers Mill Pool — that began to make the kids sick.
WFXR’s sister station, WRIC, spoke to parents whose daughters are lifeguards at the pool. They said their daughters told them they saw children vomiting and complaining of sore throats.
A local pool operator told WRIC that the symptoms are tell-tale signs of chlorine and acid mixing. The chemicals are used in almost every pool but are only safe if done so correctly. The operator said the rare but very serious occurrence can happen as the result of a pump malfunction, leaving victims to breathe in the toxic gas produced from the mix.
WFXR’s sister station also spoke with a mother, who asked to remain unnamed, and said she was at the pool with five of her kids — aged eight, seven, five, and two years old, and was holding her four-month-old — when they inhaled a “powdery substance” and started choking. The mother said she and her five children went to Chippenham Hospital for treatment, and then returned home.
While on the phone, the mother could be heard still coughing, hours after the incident.
Crews say between 25 and 35 children and adults had to be decontaminated and sprayed down with water to ensure no chemicals had been found on their bodies. Some people also had their blood pressure taken and breathing checked as a safety precaution.
Lt. Kenny Mitchell of Chesterfield Fire says most of the complaints were coughing and nausea.
A total of 15 children and one adult were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after the summer pool day turned into a hazmat nightmare.
Mitchell says incidents like this tend to occur during this time of the year, towards the beginning of pool season.
“This is pretty common in the summertime with pool chemicals,” Mitchell said. “This time of the year people are mixing chemicals at their homes. This happens a lot at homes as well.”
According to Mitchell, he has seen chemical mixtures cause this sort of disruption before, but it’s hard to tell at this time what caused the chemical issue. Crews plan to continue the investigation.
Pool management say they plan to do a second assessment of the pool chemicals — separate from those conducted by emergency crews — to make sure there are no more issues.
For now, management has not set a specific timetable for when the pool will reopen.