Aquatic center closes briefly after chlorine scare
Around 11 a.m. Tuesday, the Sherwood High School swim team was practicing at Chehalem Aquatic and Fitness Center when it noticed an unusual odor. According to the Chehalem Park & Recreation District, bubbles released from the water's filtration system floated to the surface, where they popped and emitted a chlorine-like aroma.
The team became concerned and its coach called 9-1-1. CPRD closed the facility as a precaution before first responders arrived, and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue crews evaluated six swimmers for "minor respiratory irritation." Five of those swimmers were transported to Providence Newberg Medical Center as a precaution, according to a release from CPRD.
"CPRD supports the precautionary measures taken and appreciates the quick and diligent response by emergency responders," Kat Ricker, CPRD public information director, said. "Staff will continue to monitor the equipment and the process of filtration, thoroughly evaluate the incident, and make any adjustments if necessary."
An investigation by CPRD staff and first responders found that the bubbles contained sodium hydrochlorite, which is used to disinfect the water and smells like household bleach. The facility was "cleared of concern" and re-opened an hour after it was closed. Swim lessons began in the pool at 1:30 p.m.
"We are happy that no one was injured and the system performed as we thought that it would," CPRD Superintendent Don Clements said. "We appreciate the response of all people involved in ensuring the health and safety of our patrons."
Clements said the bubbles occur as a result of the filtration system being cleaned, which is done manually through a process of reversing the flow in the filtration pump, causing air bubbles to form. He said it is something done "pretty much every day" at the facility and is recommended by the manufacturer of the filtration system.
According to Clements, there isn't a major risk factor associated with the smell released from the bubbles, and swimmers might not even notice it unless they are close to where they surface and pop.
He said that although this type of incident hasn't happened before, the CPRD is looking at changing its process and only cleaning the filtration system when the pool is not in use.
"I don't think there's a risk factor, but there's definitely a factor that the public might not perceive it as being proper," Clements said. "We definitely need to discuss it and we have a safety committee to do that. I would bet that they recommend we do it when people are not there from now on."