Maplewood Promises Better Communication, Staff Training & Protocols After Pool Filter Malfunction That Sickened Kids

by Mary Barr Mann
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Maplewood Township is promising better staff emergency protocols and training as well as communication after an incident at the Maplewood Community Pool sickened children on July 17, sending several young children to area emergency rooms and urgent care centers.

Per minutes from a July 22 Office of Emergency Management meeting and an email update to pool members on July 29, the Township provided a further description of the filtration malfunction that took place, causing “liquid chlorine at higher than normal levels to enter into the pool.” This emission of chlorine caused young children in the main pool — mostly ages 5 and 6 — to experience bouts of vomiting, trouble breathing, coughing, blue lips and lethargy. One child was hospitalized overnight but has since been released; all children have recovered.

While the email from the Township reported that “[a]fter the diagnosis and retrospective we confirmed that the correct steps were taken and they are now part of our process,” the email reported that the OEM meeting was held to “review and refine safety protocols and standard operating procedures related to the pool” and that “all staff will be trained on all updated policies.”

Per minutes of the OEM meeting provided by DeLuca, the township is now directing staff to call 911 in such an emergency (something that did not happen on July 17):

Going forward the pool staff will call 911 when there are significant and related factors related to the pool chemicals that raise concerns about the health and welfare of pool patrons. The pool SOP will be reviewed and revised to ensure that supervisory staff at the pool are aware of and follow the 911 call protocol.

DeLuca’s report also notes that “Emergency communications are to be cleared by the Township Administrator. Communications must be clear, factual, professionally prepared, sensitive and non-defensive.”

Read the full July 29 email from the Township, as well as the minutes of the OEM meeting, below:

From Maplewood Townshipt to Maplewood Community Pool members via email on July 29:

Good Afternoon Pool Members,

This notice serves as a follow up regarding the event which occurred at our Township pool on Saturday, July 17, 2021.

As previously communicated, a malfunction occurred resulting in a sediment release, sudden smell and liquid chlorine discharge and as a result, we worked with our third-party contractor [CFM] to identify and resolve the cause of the malfunction.

After conducting the retrospective with CFM, we confirmed that the automatic level controller which controls the amount of water in the pool malfunctioned. This malfunction reduced the volume of water available for the filtration system which caused the recirculation pump to draw in air and shut down. Simultaneously, another feed pump continued to operate pumping chlorine into the piping system.  When the water level reached the proper elevation,  the filtration system restarted triggering an initial rush of filtered water into the pool which in turn caused liquid chlorine at higher than normal levels to enter into the pool.

After the diagnosis and retrospective we confirmed that the correct steps were taken and they are now part of our process.

We continue to monitor water levels on a regular basis and run regular tests and the water level controllers and pool systems are working properly.  All pertinent aspects of the new filtration system were looked at and additional training was performed with our staff.

Finally, The Township held an OEM meeting last week to review and refine safety protocols and standard operating procedures related to the pool.

All staff will be trained on all updated policies.

Again, we thank you again for your patience and understanding during that time and are pleased to see you are enjoying the pool.

Maplewood Township

Minutes of the July 22 OEM meeting as prepared by OEM Manager Victor DeLuca:

Maplewood OEM Meeting on July 22, 2021 at 3:00pm to Discuss Municipal Pool Filtration System Incident on Saturday, July 17, 2021
Attending:
  1. Mayor Frank McGehee
  2. TC Member/OEM Coordinator Vic De Luca
  3. Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis
  4. TC Member Greg Lembrich
  5. TC Member Nancy Adams
  6. Administrator Jerry Giaimis
  7. Asst. Administrator Bailey Barnett 
  8. Community Service Director Melissa Mancuso
  9. Engineer Paul Kittner
  10. Acting Fire Chief Chris Ariemma
  11. Police Chief Jimmy DeVaul
  12. Health Officer Candice Davenport
  13. Recreation Program Supervisor Nick Walz
  14. Asst. Engineer Husam Zeidan
  15. DPW Supervisor Cesare Riccardi 
  16. Health Educator Anna Markarova
Mayor McGehee opened the meeting with remarks.
Director Mancuso provided an overview of the incident and the response.
OEM protocols were reviewed and discussed. Going forward the pool staff will call 911 when there are significant and related factors related to the pool chemicals that raise concerns about the health and welfare of pool patrons. The pool SOP will be reviewed and revised to ensure that supervisory staff at the pool are aware of and follow the 911 call protocol.
As per the recommendation of the Health Officer, water testing will take place if there is a similar filtration system incident in the future.
Emergency communications are to be cleared by the Township Administrator. Communications must be clear, factual, professionally prepared, sensitive and non-defensive. There will be a final communication once there is an assessment of the pool systems.
To mitigate future problems, there will be additional training of the pool staff on the operation of the filtration system. The Engineer is bringing in consultants to assess the filtration system and make recommendations. 
Administrator Giaimis reminded all that public information comes from his office as per the emergency management protocols. If any questions come from the public, the official Township statement should be referenced. 
Mayor McGehee thanked all for participating in the OEM meeting and for their contributions on the day of the incident. 
Meeting adjourned at 3:40pm
Notes prepared by:
Victor De Luca
Maplewood Township Committee Member and Emergency Management Coordinator

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