Dealing Chemical Spillages in Swimming Pools

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The main ways chemicals can harm the body are via:

  • Contact with skin, eyes etc.
  • Ingestion
  • Inhalation

For contact with skin, it’s important to flush the affected area with water. Drench showers should be provided close to chemical storage areas for this purpose. If much of the body is affected, it may be better to carefully lower the casualty into the swimming pool and remove any contaminated clothing.

For contact with eyes, the chemical will need to be flushed out (whilst taking care to avoid the nose and risk inhalation). This should continue for at least 10 minutes. Eye wash stations should be provided close to chemical storage areas for this purpose.

For ingestion of chemicals, the casualty should sip water or milk to help dilute the chemicals. Vomiting should not be encouraged. If the casualty becomes unconscious, they should be placed into the recovery position and monitored, if they stop breathing, then artificial respiration should commence.

For inhalation of chemicals, the casualty should be evacuated to a safe environment with fresh air to purge the lungs. If the casualty becomes unconscious, they should be placed into the recovery position and monitored, if they stop breathing, then artificial respiration should commence. Equipment should be used, such as a resuscitation face mask, to prevent the person administering the breaths from inhaling the gas themselves.

In the above scenarios, kit’s likely that the casualty will need to go to hospital for further treatment. The medical staff will need to know more about the particular chemical that the casualty has been in contact with, so the relevant Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) must accompany the casualty to the hospital.

For spillages of chemicals, the Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group (PWTAG) provide the following procedure:

In any emergency a quick but calm reaction is necessary. Personnel and the public must be protected. Only personnel that know the product and have been trained to handle spills should be allowed in the area. Appropriate protective equipment should be worn when dealing with a spill.

Whatever the cause, the approach to any spill is to:

  • follow the emergency action plan
  • protect the public
  • protect staff
  • contain the spill
  • stop the leak
  • clean up the spill
  • protect the environment

Large spillages

If the spillage is over 45 litres (10 gallons) immediately evacuate the area; remove sources of ignition; provide maximum ventilation. If the risk to people or environment is considerable, call the emergency services. Only personnel with proper respiratory and eye/skin protection should be permitted in the area.

Dam and absorb spillages with dry sand, soil or other inert material. Do not use combustible adsorbents such as sawdust. Then collect the absorbed material in containers, seal securely (with a vent) and deliver for disposal according to local regulations. Containers with collected absorbed material must be properly labelled with correct contents and hazard symbol.

Wash spillage site well with water and detergent; be aware of the potential for surfaces to become slippery. Continue to ventilate the site of the spillage.

Spillages or uncontrolled discharges into watercourse, drains or sewers must be notified immediately to the National Rivers Authority or other appropriate regulatory body.

Small spillages

If the spillage is under 45 litres, it can be diluted with large quantities of water and then if local regulations allow, run to drain with copious amounts of water. Otherwise, absorb and dispose of as above.

Leaks in the piping or discharge hose

Close the primary valve at the base of the storage tank. In leaks in piping or hoses, closing a valve between the leak and the source of the material (tank) will minimise the loss.

Leak in the bulk storage tank, or its primary valve

Empty the tank as quickly as possible into other suitable containers – which might be intermediate bulk containers (­IBCs). Call the supplier of the tank. Lowering the level of the product in the tank stops or reduces the amount leaking. Drum the material and return it to the supplier for recycling. Uncontaminated spillages may be able to be used in the pool.

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