A FIFE leisure centre will today reopen its doors as investigations continue into the cause of a potentially deadly chemical leak that saw the centre evacuated and 19 people receiving hospital treatment for breathing difficulties.
Paramedics treated five children and 14 adults at East Sands Leisure Centre in St Andrews following a chemical spill on Tuesday. The casualties, including two staff members and children aged between two and 12, were taken to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for further treatment after inhaling noxious fumes.
Many had been taking part in an adult and toddler swim session before the alarm came around lunchtime.
The incident sparked a massive emergency response. Ambulances, decontamination specialists and 55 firefighters were dispatched to the facility in the town’s St Mary’s Street, which also houses a gym, squash courts and a spa.
Rescuers donned gas-proof suits and breathing apparatus in order to switch off power and carry out a thorough search of the building.
Reports suggest the chemical involved was sodium hypochlorite, which is commonly used as a disinfectant, but the results of tests carried out at the scene have yet to be revealed. It is understood the incident occurred in a plant room alongside the pool area.
Sodium hypochlorite, which becomes bleach when dissolved in water, can cause breathing difficulties, burn the skin and damage eyes.
Sophie Watson, 29, who was at a gymnastics class with her son Alfie when the centre was evacuated, said: “We were told we had to get out and all sent out to the front of the building.
“Fire engines started turning up and we kept getting told to move further and further back.” A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside later confirmed that “all of the patients had been exposed to chlorine gas”.
Allen Wilson, president of the Institute of Swimming Pool Engineers, said: “Sodium hypochlorite is a liquid form similar to bleach with up to 15 per cent active chlorine.
“If this substance is allowed to mix with an acid it will release chlorine gas. Chlorine gas can blind, cause long-term respiratory complaints or even kill.”
The 19 casualties have now been released from hospital and are not expected to suffer any long-term effects from exposure to the chemical.
Other buildings in the area were also evacuated after the leak. But the Scottish rugby team, which was training at the nearby St Andrews University sports centre, was not affected.
A spokeswoman for Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, which runs the East Sands centre for Fife Council, said a full investigation is under way but the centre has been given the all-clear to reopen as usual from Thursday.