Indianapolis emergency rooms were flooded with nearly 80 very sick people Thursday afternoon, most of which were children. Earlier in the day, nearly 200 people were at the Garfield Park Aquatic Center hoping to escape the 90 degree heat, but a fun day at the water park went sour when several swimmers became violently ill.
Those affected reported that the water took on an acrid, bleach-like taste and burned their eyes and throats. The strong smell of ammonia filled the air, and the overwhelming fumes made breathing difficult for the young swimmers. Staff and parents went into a panic trying to get kids out the pool; many were rushed into showers or given fresh water to drink.
An enormous emergency response was launched. Because of the large of amounts of people sickened so suddenly and at the same time, emergency crews initially treated the scene as a ‘mass casualty event.’ Marion County responders assessed the swimmers to decide the most in need of assistance and found several children who were still nauseous, coughing and vomiting, and suffering from respiratory issues.
Nearly 80 people were taken to local hospitals where they were treated and released, but 8 suffered more serious injury and were required to stay overnight for observation.
The Indianapolis Fire Department speculate that the machine that feeds chemicals into the pool shut off and was restarted. This may have caused an out-of-balance amount of a pool cleaning chemical called ACID Magic and sodium hypochlorite to be pumped into the pool, a mixture which released noxious chlorine gas. Chlorine gas can be nauseating and hazardous and even fatal in high doses.
The Deputy Director of Indy Parks also stated, ‘It looks like the wrong combination of chemicals, but beyond that, we don’t have anything conclusive.’
The pool remained closed for several days as they waited for a final inspection report from the Marion County Health Department. The Indy Parks spokesperson went on to call the leak a ‘unique situation’ for the district, and that the city is still conducting an investigation.
Indianapolis’ legal department is handling inquiries of whether or not the city is covering the medical bills of the injured kids.
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Source. IndyStar.com, ‘http://www.indystar.com/article/20120621/NEWS/120621039/Chemicals-spread-chaos-Garfield-Park-pool,’ Robert King, June 21, 2012.
Source. IndyStar.com, ‘http://www.indystar.com/article/20120622/LOCAL/206230315/City-officials-aren-t-saying-what-caused-Garfield-Park-pool-scare,’ Ryan Sabalow, June 22, 2012.
Source. TheIndyChannel.com, ‘http://www.theindychannel.com/news/31218766/detail.html,’ June 22, 2012.
Source. Fox59.com, ‘http://www.fox59.com/news/wxin-pool-chemicals-indy-parks-keeps-garfield-park-pool-closed-after-nearly-80-go-to-the-hospital-20120622,0,6805743.column,’ Ann Keil, June 22, 2012.
Source. WISHtv.com, ‘http://www.wishtv.com/dpp/news/local/marion_county/no-date-for-pool-reopening-after-chemical-spill,’ June 25, 2012.