Authorities wrapped up an all-day HAZMAT event at the around 9 p.m. Sunday with the situation under control and no injuries reported.
Chief Vinnie Smith said the fire department responded to a call this morning after a pool employee incorrectly mixed muriatic acid and chlorine, both chemicals used in the pool but when mixed outside of the pool's waters can produce deadly chlorine gas.
Smith said the employee knew immediately that he had incorrectly mixed the chemicals. The fire chief said he believed that only two or three people, employees only, were at the pool at the time, and all of them left the building right away.
Firefighters arrived and determined quickly that they did not have the equipment to properly rectify the situation. Smith said that no local fire department has that kind of equipment, though if someone had been trapped inside, firefighters could have attempted a rescue.
“Because we knew in advance what chemicals were there, we knew how to deal with them,” Smith explained. Members of the fire department vented the building and contacted the state HAZMAT team. “We handled it properly. This is one of those cases when we really don’t have the proper equipment to handle it ourselves. We did exactly what we’re supposed to do.”
Wayland Fire Capt. Bob Dorey explained that the HAZMAT team's air packs are the same as those of the local fire department except that the HAZMAT gear is completely encased. Dorey said the biggest danger for firefighters was to the equipment itself.
Dorey said about 20 personnel from the state's team joined Wayland's response, and that the state team classified the situation as a Tier 2 response.
Smith estimated that 10-15 gallons of the chemicals had been mixed and, after several hours of pumping out the gas, the problem remained. At that point, state HAZMAT officials made the decision to pour the chemicals into the pool where they are typically mixed safely.
“It’s terrible when a mistake like that is made," Smith said. "At this point, I would say it was just human error. That can always happen. The pool is planning to take steps to ensure this doesn't happen again."
No one was injured in the situation. The employee who mixed the chemicals was checked out in an ambulance at the scene, but declined to be transported. Smith said he understood that employee was later taken to the hospital by his family where he was checked out and released.
"Be very careful with pool chemicals," Dorey said. "This is a situation that was an unfortunate accident that can be very serious."
Pool employees will need to monitor the chemical and pH levels at the pool, but it could reopen on Monday, Smith said, after checks by officials with the Wayland Board of Health and the Wayland Fire Department.
Editor's Note: The story has been updated from its original publication to include comments from Capt. Bob Dorey.