Pools were shut down and more than 40 swimmers hospitalized recently as the result of chlorine issues at several facilities across North America. Perhaps the most serious case occurred at the CoCo Key Water Resort at the Sheraton Ferncroft in Danvers, Mass.

Following complaints of chemical burns, rashes and respiratory problems from a number of patrons, health officials ordered CoCo Key closed after finding that two of the pools at the resort were noncompliant in free chlorine levels. State codes stipulate 1- to 3 ppm of chlorine. The local health department found chlorine levels equal to or in excess of 5 ppm.

When state officials investigated, they found that free chlorine levels were in check, but combined chlorine levels were 15 times higher than allowed. In addition, inspectors found gaps in testing logs and cited the resort for inadequate test kits and missing thermometers on the hot tub.

Initially, resort operators issued a statement maintaining that they were in compliance, but have since worked with officials to reopen, said Derek Fullerton, director of public health for Middleton Board of Health. Approval was granted March 14 after the resort met state requirements and recommendations set forth by the local Board of Health. These recommendations included:

  • Meeting water quality chemical standards in compliance with state codes
  • Conducting bacteriological testing throughout the entire recreational water system and maintaining a schedule of monthly testing
  • Revising operating standards to require two certified operators on duty during all business hours
  • Submitting weekly reports to the health department
  • Installing new testing equipment and a thermometer in the hot tub
  • Agreeing to notify the health department within one hour of a pool closure
  • Implementing a complaint log
  • Hiring an outside professional to conduct a full analysis of the park.

?This issue is fairly new to the industry,? said Ron Sevart, vice president of brand management at Sage Hospitality - CoCo Key Water Resorts. ?While the complaints from the 30 to 40 guests affected ranged from skin irritation to breathing difficulty, we were fortunate to contain it to a small percentage of our guests.? As of press time, since the park reopened, Fullerton said he had received no further health-related complaints about the CoCo Key, but added that officials would continue to monitor the resort. ?One of the things we?ll be doing is increasing our inspection frequencies,? he said.

Meanwhile, officials in Wisconsin said 40 people were hospitalized for chemical exposure during a school field trip learning about water safety. The injured, mostly kindergartners at Lincoln Elementary School, were visiting the North Central Health Care Facilities pool when a pump blew a fuse, causing the release of excess chlorine gas. One student was placed in pediatric intensive care and all subsequently recovered.

The therapeutic pool was built in the 1970s, according to North Central Chief Executive Officer Gary Bezucha. He said he?s working with insurance carriers to pay the medical expenses of the injured. ?We immediately shut down the pool and locked it,? Bezucha said. ?The Marathon County Health Department was on site within minutes and working with us in trouble-shooting [what happened]. We went through a root cause analysis to determine all possible causes.?

In addition to these incidents and a January chlorine leak at the Mayan Adventure Waterpark in Elmhurst, Ill., that hospitalized 20, leaks were reported at Harding High School in St. Paul, Minn., which hospitalized one maintenance worker; Canmore Recreation Center, Canmore, Alberta, Canada; and Bonnie Doon pool in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.