Fire crews spent 10 hours dealing with chemical incident at Clare leisure centre
Emergency services spent almost 10 hours dealing with a chemical incident at a leisure centre in Co Clare today.
The alarm was raised at around 6.30am when the fire service received a call to attend an automatic fire alarm at the River Lodge Health and Fitness centre on the Gort Road in Ennis.
While en route to the scene, fire crews were updated and advised they could be attending a possible ‘hazardous substance’ incident. Additional fire service resources were mobilised to the scene while the National Ambulance Service and Gardaí were also alerted.
Three units of the fire brigade from Ennis responded along with an ambulance, a rapid response advanced paramedic unit and Gardaí.
While the leisure facility and swimming pool are located at the rear of a local hotel and close to a supermarket and residential properties, no persons had to be evacuated.
On arrival at the scene, Clare County Fire and Rescue Service personnel, wearing special chemical suits and breathing apparatus, entered the property and found the basement flooded with up to six feet of water.
It’s believed the basement houses pipework for the swimming pool and is also used to store chemicals used for the maintenance of the pool. It was feared that water would react with the chemicals however fire crews could not see below the surface to carry out a more detailed examination.
Fire crews began to pump water out of the basement while ambulance service paramedics remained on standby as a precaution.
Once the water had been pumped of the room, fire personnel carried out a further inspection of the area and to establish what chemicals were stored inside.
When a second time entered the basement for a further inspection their gas alarms sounded after high levels of chlorine were detected. Additional units of the fire brigade from Shannon Town were called into to assist with the incident.
Firefighters removed buckets of chemicals from the building while water samples were also taken and tested by staff from Clare County Council’s Environment Section. Samples were also taken from a nearby river for testing as a precaution.
Fire crews underwent strict decontamination procedures after exiting the building.
A spokesman for Clare County Fire and Rescue Service confirmed: "High levels of chlorine were detected in the water. All waste is being disposed of in a licensed waste facility locally."
In a statement on their Facebook page, management at the facility said: “The River Lodge Health & Fitness is closed as a precaution until further notice. We apologise for this sudden inconvenience and hope to have this situation rectified as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for the Auburn Lodge Hotel said: “I can confirm that we had a leak in the basement area of the Leisure Centre. In accordance with our safety plan the area was isolated and emergency services called.
"Chemicals used for the operation of the Leisure Centre were stored in accordance with guidelines in this area. We have since received confirmation from the Fire Service that there is no danger to guests, employees or the public.
“We are grateful to our employees and the emergency services for their assistance,” the spokesman added.