Excess chlorine evacuates Biddeford YMCA, sickens eight

Posted March 13, 2012, at 7:46 p.m.
Last modified March 14, 2012, at 6:56 a.m.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — Crews from the Biddeford Fire Department were called to the Northern York County Family YMCA late Tuesday afternoon after excess chlorine was added to the swimming pool, resulting in fumes that sickened eight members.

The chlorine problem — which prompted the evacuation of the Pomerleau Street facility — was reported about 5:15 p.m., when several people inside began suffering breathing problems, Lt. David Dutremble of the Biddeford Fire Department said Tuesday night. One of the victims also experienced skin rashes.

Dutremble said that three of the victims were taken to a local hospital by ambulance, one more person arrived by private vehicle and three others showed up at the hospital as walk-ins.

More than 20 other members were checked out at the scene and signed off on medical treatment, he said.

The affected members, whose names were not released, were from a wide range of ages but most were in their teens. All of the people affected had been in or near the pool, he said. No fatalities resulted from the incident, he said.

Dutremble said that the pool’s chlorine system is automated. Chemical levels are checked frequently and adjusted as needed. After a low reading on Tuesday, an employee added what turned out to be too much chlorine, he said.

During the incident, several of those who evacuated found themselves outside in wet bathing suits, Dutremble said. He said that the YMCA ran a van in which members were able to warm themselves.

The YMCA reopened about three hours after it was evacuated, Dutremble said.

Biddeford firefighters were assisted by Kennebunk firefighters with hazardous materials training, he said.

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