Chemical leak evacuates pool

An apparent chlorine leak lead to the port Hardy swimming pool evacuating staff and the public Tuesday morning.

Gazette staff

PORT HARDY—A chemical mix-up at Port Hardy’s Recreation Centre led to the evacuation of the swimming pool and the medical treatment of a daycare group Tuesday morning.

The incident was still under investigation when the Gazette went to press, but early reports suggest that two chemicals were improperly mixed by a Rec. staff member leading to the formation of chlorine gas which then diffused into the main areas.

The mistake was immediately realized and the pool closed, but staff and a group of pre-schoolers in the change rooms at the time of the incident were exposed to the gas.

RCMP, firefighters and paramedics were on the scene within minutes and those exposed — including three District employees, nine pre-schoolers and childcare providers — were taken to Port Hardy Hospital as a precaution and later released.

District representatives have promised a full investigation into the incident but praised the quick reactions of staff.

“The District takes the utmost precautions,” said Mayor Bev Parnham. “Staff did the right  thing in evacuating.”

She said that the operator involved in the error is extremely well-trained and a “seasoned” member of staff, noting that WorkSafeBC had been alerted to the incident and would look into the circumstances alongside the District’s own investigation.

“I really don’t know what happened,” she said, “we’ll have to wait for the outcome of the investigation. I am pleased that correct procedures were followed and staff put their emergency training to use.”

Deputy Fire Chief Brent Borg said that the scene was under control by the time the firefighters got there. “We just went in and did the ventilation and confirmed the evacuation — made sure everybody was out.”

It was unclear how long the building would remain off-limits, the period dependent in part on the pending investigation. “It could conceivably be a couple of days,” said the mayor, adding that she hoped for a quick turnaround in this case.

On behalf of the District, the mayor apologized to those affected. “Obviously we’re apologetic,” said Mayor Parnham. “Thankfully, these sorts of incidents are extremely rare, we have a really good safety record. It’s unfortunate there were people in the building at the time, of course we’re wishing those people well.

“For those people, we sincerely apologize and will do everything possible to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”