CAY HILL--Dozens of children participating in school swimming programmes at Raoul Illidge Sport Complex in Cay Hill got burning eyes and lung irritation which, testing showed, was caused by a chlorine level 4 times the level considered safe for swimming. As of March 8, the pool is closed until further notice.
During the presentation of the draft 2023 budget in Parliament on Monday, Sports Minister Rodolphe Samuel was asked for clarification by Party for Progress (PFP) Member of Parliament (MP) Raeyhon Peterson.
“Many schoolchildren go to the Raoul Illidge Sports Complex for swimming classes, and a lot of children also go there outside the school hours. However, in the last couple of days, there have been reports and rumours of troubles concerning the swimming pool at the Raoul Illidge Sport Complex,” Peterson pointed out. “Some schools have abruptly stopped the children from taking swimming lessons, with no reasons actually given, not to them nor the parents.”
Seeking clarity for the parents and the children, Peterson said, “I want to ask the Minister what is really going on at the pool at the Raoul Illidge Sport Complex at the moment? Is there something wrong with the water? Has the water been tested to see if it is actually safe for our kids to swim in? If the answer is ‘yes’, then I want to know from the Minister since when exactly has this been the case? If so, how long have the kids been swimming in possibly contaminated water?”
The swimming classes were stopped on March 8, one day after the Environmental Laboratory in Simpson Bay received a sample of water from the 30-metre swimming pool at Raoul Illidge Sport Complex taken by a concerned father who is a doctor by profession.
“My daughter (she is eight) had stinging, irritated eyes after swimming class. She also goes to the swimming pool in Cole Bay, and never complained about pain in her eyes after swimming there,” the father said. “I suspected there was something wrong with the water at Raoul Illidge.”
Results of the test showed that the water is hazardous to swim in. Total Chlorine Liquid Reagents identified a free chlorine concentration of 41 parts per million (ppm), while a level of 1-3ppm is regular for pools. A concentration up to 5ppm is considered acceptable by water quality experts and health councils, while a concentration of 10ppm and higher is not safe to swim in.
Chlorine and chloramine gas – a reaction between chlorine and amines that occur in sweat, urine and stool – are both respiratory irritants. Chloramine is heavier than air, so it hangs at the pool’s surface. Exposure to this gas can lead to reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS), a chemical irritant-induced type of asthma. Other symptoms to look out for include nasal irritation, coughing and wheezing.
High chlorine in pools comes with a risk of chlorine poisoning. It happens when someone swallows or inhales chlorine. This can lead to difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting.
Regular testing of pool water is performed using a test strip to check the PH and chlorine level. However, if the chlorine concentration is far too high, these test strips are of no use, a water quality expert explained to The Daily Herald. “When exposed to high levels of chlorine, the strips will quickly turn blank, making it seem like there is no chlorine in the water. To properly test the water, a dilution has to be made.” The expert warned: “If you are not sure, avoid adding more chlorine.”
The tests at the Environmental Laboratory in Simpson Bay also showed that the pool water at Raoul Illidge has a pH of 6.87. The advised alkalinity for pool water is pH 7-7.6. A pH lower than 7 is acidic and can cause stinging eyes.
The company that was contracted by the management of Raoul Illidge Sport Complex for maintenance of the pool could not be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon. This newspaper received information that this company had been advised to empty the swimming pool and refresh the water. Around 4:30pm Tuesday the swimming pool was still filled with water and the entrance to the pool locked off.
When asked for comment, Raoul Illidge Sport Complex facility manager Siegfried Hodge said that his team is preparing a press release to inform the public.