Toxic gas cloud at Crowne Plaza pool sends 3 to hospital

ASHEVILLE — Two children and an adult were hospitalized June 18 after serious reactions to the mixture of pool chemicals at the Crowne Plaza Resort pool, according to the Asheville Fire Department.

Department spokeswoman Kelley Klope said firefighters responded to a “possible hazardous materials incident” at the complex. The call came in at 1:23 p.m. and eight firefighting units responded to the resort’s indoor pool, according to an incident report.

“The dispatcher said (one) caller reported people having difficulty breathing and difficulty speaking between breaths,” Klope said by email, noting there were a total of eight patients. “AFD helped treat the patients and decontaminate them. Three people were taken to hospital for further evaluation – two minors and one adult.”

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The fire department vented the pool area.

“The reactions are believed to be due to hydrochloric acid and chlorine,” Klope said.

Chlorine is commonly used in swimming pool water as a disinfectant. Hydrochloric acid is most often used as a cleaning agent.

“If chlorine is mixed with hydrochloric acid, chlorine gas is formed, which can lead to serious injury and death to those exposed,” according to a case study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

The Asheville Fire Department report states that “a pool employee advised (a firefighter) that there may have been an adverse reaction to the mixture of hydrochloric acid and chlorine.”

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The United States Environmental Protection Agency states this about the improper mixing of swimming pool chemicals on its website: “Most common swimming pool chemicals are inherently incompatible with each other. Intentional or accidental mixing of incompatible chemicals may cause a chemical reaction which may generate high temperatures enough to ignite nearby combustible materials.The mixture may also result in the release of highly toxic and corrosive chlorine gas.

The incident report mentions two victims aged 5 and 7 years old.

In its statement, the ARC said: “Three people were taken to hospital following the incident and were released later in the afternoon. We have no conclusive evidence that the chemicals have crossed paths and we are still actively investigating.”

Statement of Resort Problems

The Asheville Racquet Club, which operates the Crowne Plaza, released a statement via email June 22 about the incident, noting that “the health and safety of our members, guests and employees is paramount.”

“We had an isolated incident on Saturday afternoon which unfortunately affected some of our swimmers,” ARC said. “After an initial investigation in collaboration with internal and external resources, we have put measures in place to ensure that this type of incident does not happen again. We recognize the seriousness of this event and continue to work to achieve our goal. to provide the safest pool experiences in Asheville.”

The CRA did not respond to questions about exactly how the crash happened.

On its website, the EPA cites two incidents in which a mixture of chlorine and hydrochloric acid created similar incidents, including one in 1998 in Dayton, Ohio, which states:

“A toxic cloud was generated when hydrochloric acid was inadvertently mixed with a chlorinating product in the pool at the local community center. Nine people were taken to hospital.”

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The North Carolina Department of Labor investigates workplace incidents.

“I have checked with our Occupational Safety and Health Division, and our staff have confirmed that we have not received notification of this incident,” DOL spokeswoman Jennifer Haigwood said. by e-mail on June 22. “However, please note that if the person concerned was a guest, and not an employee, the employer is not obliged to inform the OHS Division.

However, Haigwood added, “our OHS division will initiate an investigation to determine if any employee exposure has occurred.”

The swimming pool expert intervenes

Andrew Pulsifer, an Asheville resident who worked as a certified pool operator for 10 years, said handling pool chemicals, especially hydrochloric acid, requires extreme caution.

“The use of hydrochloric acid is the normal prerogative of a pool operator, but it is so caustic that it should always be done when no one is in the pool, in a well-ventilated area and with appropriate measures taken for the user such as safety glasses, a respirator and rubber gloves, and hopefully fresh water available at all times to flush skin in case of splashes (occur ),” Pulsifer said via email. “If a mistake was made and the hydrochloric acid was mixed with another chemical, especially chlorine, it will create chlorine gas, which is exactly what was used in chemical warfare, because it wreaks havoc on skin, eyes, nasal passages, throat, and lungs, and will rapidly incapacitate anyone inhaling vapors, and could result in death.

Hydrochloric acid is also known as hydrochloric acid, according to

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