Bill Cobb was given oxygen after he was evacuated from the Walnut Grove Community Centre suddenly on Thursday morning.

UPDATED: Chlorine causes Walnut Grove pool evacuation

Staff and patrons scrambled to evacuate the rec centre.

The Walnut Grove Community Centre was evacuated Thursday morning over a release of excess chlorine.

At about 11 a.m., staff ordered everyone out of the building, and firefighters and B.C. Ambulance paramedics soon arrived.

Four people were taken to hospital as a precaution, but no one appears to have been seriously injured, said Langley Township district fire chief Russ Jenkins.

A number of people were treated at the scene.

“I certainly smelled it when it hit,” said Bill Cobb, who was right in the middle of the pool when the evacuation order was given.

The smell came on suddenly.

“It’s a really acid sort of smell, sharp, made you cough right away,” Cobb said.

Cobb didn’t hear the evacuation order at first, but when he looked up after the smell hit, he saw everyone else was heading out of the pool.

Cobb said he was having a little trouble breathing at first and he was given oxygen by the paramedics outside. Tanks of oxygen were still sitting on the ground near the people who had been evacuated.

At least a dozen people were given oxygen, Cobb said, including several children.

The cause of the smell appears to have been an excess of chlorine that got into the pool from a particular valve, said Jenkins.

It was not clear yet on Thursday whether the valve was faulty or if there had been a backup of chlorine inside it.

The building was being ventilated by firefighters.

Outside the centre, staff told newly arriving visitors of the closure, while others handed out flip flops and space blankets to those who had to evacuate the pool in their swimwear.

The pool area remained closed for the rest of Thursday, while the remainder of the rec centre re-opened at around 1 p.m.

An engineer will inspect the pump system and the chlorine system has been shut off, and the building is safe, according to Langley Township.

No abnormal chlorine readings were detected, and this is the third time there has been an issue with the chlorine system at the pool.

The problem was traced to a pump in one of the smaller pools that put out a “bubble” of chlorine, said James Marvel, Township manager of recreation and cultural services. Walnut Grove’s pool re-opened by about 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.

“The smell was a lot worse than the danger,” Marvel said.

Just two hours after the Walnut Grove incident, W.C. Blair Recreation Centre was also evacuated and closed for a few hours after a different mechanical failure.

Township officials said a break in an air handling unit broke down and a haze appeared over the pool area, but there was no fire.

“It was vaporized refrigerant out of the air handling unit,” said Marvel.

There were some minor respiratory concerns and three staffers were checked out by medical personnel, but no members of the public were seriously affected, said Marvel.

The evacuation was a precaution while the break was isolated and the area ventilated. The pool was closed at 1 p.m. and re-opened at 5:30 p.m., except for the therapy pool. That reopened Friday morning.

“This was a very unfortunate coincidence and a case of bad timing,” said Marvel.

Both pools had also suffered under recent closures due to the power failures caused by the Aug. 29 windstorm.

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