37 children sickened in North Carolina YMCA hazmat leak

Wednesday, August 02, 2017 06:01PM
The YMCA has been closed for the day after the incident.

DURHAM, North Carolina - A total of 39 people were hospitalized, including 37 children, after a chemical leak at a YMCA in North Carolina on Wednesday afternoon.

Six of the children were in serious condition, officials said.

The children affected range in age from 6 to 12. The ones not seriously injured were being monitored at the hospital as a precaution, officials said.

The Durham Downtown YMCA was evacuated after what is described by officials as a "maintenance issue."

The Durham Fire Department responded around 2:43 p.m. for a reported chlorine leak. Durham FD now says Sodium Hypochlorite was the chemical that leaked, not chlorine.

Hypochlorite is a chemical used for everyday maintenance of swimming pools. The release of the hypochlorite occurred in an indoor pool, the fire department said.
Durham Deputy Fire Chief Chris Iannuzzi said when firefighters arrived, they found the evacuation of the pool area in progress.

"Earlier this afternoon, a lifeguard at our Downtown Durham YMCA reported a strong chemical odor near the pool pump room," the YMCA said in a statement. "YMCA staff immediately contacted EMS. They, in turn contacted the Durham Fire Department who determined that this was a hazmat situation."

The YMCA was contacting parents who have children there to make them aware of the situation.
A tent was set up outside the YMCA, and Durham police and firefighters worked to evaluate people overcome by fumes.

About 100 campers swam in the Downtown Durham YMCA pool on Wednesday, officials said. As part of their daily routine, they were taken back to their camp at Club Boulevard Elementary School.

"About 3 p.m., some children began complaining about breathing issues. Our camp staff immediately contacted EMS and began notifying parents," a YMCA spokesperson said.

The YMCA remains closed, with no immediate timetable for reopening.