NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Several people were hospitalized following a chemical exposure at a YMCA in Westchester County Monday morning.
Authorities were called to the New Rochelle YMCA in the vicinity of Weyman Avenue and Bayard Street around 7:14 a.m. on a report of chemical exposure causing respiratory distress, police said.
The cause of the exposure appeared to be an accidental mixture of chlorine and hydrochloric acid, which created a hazardous condition, according to police.
PIX11 was told a lifeguard requested a maintenance worker to add chlorine to the chlorine crock, which is the barrel used to put chlorine into the pool. Instead of pouring the contents from a blue container, which had the chlorine, the maintenance worker poured a red container, which had hydrochloric acid inside.
When chlorine and hydrochloric acid are mixed together, it creates chlorine gas. When the maintenance worker accidentally created this mixture, it started to bubble, so he stopped, but the gas already became exposed.
This only impacted the air in the pool area, according to a YMCA employee. It did not get into the water, but people in the pool area were vomiting and had trouble breathing.
At least 13 people were taken to the hospital for injuries, police said. One was listed in serious condition, according to New Rochelle Fire Chief Andy Sandor.
Every time emergency responders exited the building, they had to wash themselves off in the street in decontamination units.
John Bell, a New Rochelle resident, went to workout later in the day only to find the closed gym, but he’s grateful his morning routine was different on Monday.
“I think I got lucky because normally I come to swim between 6 and 7 in the morning,” Bell said.
In a statement, the New Rochelle YMCA said the safety and security of guests is a top priority.
“We will conduct a thorough investigation into this incident to better ensure nothing like it ever happens again,” the statement said.
The YMCA also said the fire department deemed the building safe around 9:30 a.m., but the building would remain closed for the rest of Monday and Tuesday out of an abundance of caution.