Chlorine Leak Forces Evacuation

POSTED: Thursday, April 23, 2009 - 6:23am

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 2:23pm

EL PASO--- Firefighters evacuated an indoor swimming pool area at the Northeast YMCA, 5500 Will Ruth, after people started getting sick.

"Well I was notified by my wife, and she was here at the same time my mother was and they told me about a chlorine spill," said Gilbert Mendoza, who waited anxiously outside trying to find out about his mother.

She was one of 13 people near the indoor pool overcome by too much chlorine.

"They rushed everybody out, my mom was one of the people who couldn't breathe, and her eyes were burning and she needed their assistance in breathing," said Mendoza.

Mendoza found out his mother was one of six sent to local hospitals.

"When firefighters arrived, they did find several people outside this building that were coughing, gasping for air," said Mario Hernandez, public information officer for the El Paso Fire Dept.

Firefighters got everyone out.
Hazmat crews cleaned up, and investigators later discovered the problem likely started with the pool's automatic chlorine pump, adding too much chlorine into the water.

After two hours, the crews left, staffers were allowed back in.
We saw a lifeguard double checking the water's chlorine levels.
The pool, reopened.
The YMCA's CEO said the pool was safe, the pump seemed to be in working order, ... but he still wasn't sure what caused the pump to malfunction.
We asked CEO Kevin Pearson, "Isn't it a matter of concern for people to be allowed back in if they're still not sure what the problem is (with the chlorinator)?"

"Everything is operating normally right now. So we're going to keep on evaluating it," he replied.

Fire inspectors checked the pump and cleared the pool to re-open.
We're told they gave the center an official notice, a warning, to make sure this doesn't happen again.

The six people sent to the hospital are all in stable condition.
As for the YMCA, should this happen again, inspectors will give the them a citation.

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