‘Defective tank’ caused St Andrews swimming pool chemical leak

Scottish Fire and Rescue attend the scene of chemical leak at East Sands Leisure Centre.  Picture: Ian Rutherford
Scottish Fire and Rescue attend the scene of chemical leak at East Sands Leisure Centre. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A CHEMICAL leak at swimming pool that led to children being taken to hospital was caused by a defective tank, it has been revealed.

Five children aged two to 12 and 14 adults needed treatment for breathing difficulties following the incident last August at the East Sands Leisure Centre in St Andrews, Fife.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has pinpointed “several breaches of health and safety law”.

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A leak from the chlorination system prompted an emergency evacuation of the pool, with a number of individuals who had been using it taken to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

HSE investigators identified that the incident had involved an uncontrolled release of the chemical sodium hypochlorite  -- used for pool chlorination -- from the centre’s storage tank.

According to an HSE report, the “unsuitable” tank did not have sufficient strength for the loads applied to it, and the due to defects in manufacture its weld were of poor quality.

Fife Council has now taken action and has installed a different chlorination system at all leisure centres with swimming pools operated by Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, and steps have now been taken to prevent a repeat at all the county’s leisure centres with swimming pools..

Liberal Democrat councillor Tim Brett said he was satisfied with the measures that have been taken.

He said: “I’m pleased to say the lessons learned both in managing the incident and on changing the chlorination system at the pool have been implemented.”

Thirteen fire engines and 55 firefighters were sent to the scene of the drama last August, along with a number of ambulances and specialist teams.

The fire service said it used three breathing apparatus teams in gas-tight suits to isolate the power in the plant room and search the building.

Everyone who was in the building at the time of the incident was accounted for.

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Sodium hypochlorite is a chemical compound. When dissolved in water it is commonly used as a disinfectant or bleaching agent.

The leisure centre includes a swimming pool, spa, squash courts and a gym.