Chlorine Levels at Haldeman Raise Health Concerns for Swimmers

Abnormally high chlorine levels in Haldeman athletic pool on Jan. 25 led to skin irritation and breathing problems.

The Pomona-Pitzer Men’s and Women’s swim teams jumped into the pool for their morning training only to emerge with burning eyes and skin.

Before practice began, the team’s assistant coach had already made a decision to keep the team out of the pool, because there seemed to be an abnormally high amount of chlorine in the water. However, the pool manager claimed the chlorine levels were normal.

The swimmers experienced irritation of skin and eyes, loss of body hair, lack of pigment in hair color, and trouble breathing.

“The chlorine burned my skin and gave me cottonmouth,” said Joe LaBriola PO ‘12, “and the water was really painful when it got in contact with my eyes.”

Several swimmers experienced hair bleaching from contact with the chemicals.

“I do think the problems resulting from the chlorine were more noticeable on the men’s team,” said Samuel Corfman PO ‘13, “because we generally swim without caps. As a result, our hair – which normally doesn’t thrive under chlorine – became very dry and bleached very quickly.”

The chemicals that are emitted into the pool are normally regulated by a machine. The pool cover also helps keep these chemicals from evaporating overnight. According to the Director of Facilities and Campus Services, Bob Robinson, the abnormally high chlorine levels resulted from the machine malfunctioning over the weekend, and the cover holding in the excess chemicals.

“If it had been at any point other than when it happened, we would have just cancelled practice, or moved to Pendleton and had practice in groups,” swimmer Rachel Ekaireb PO ’12 said.

“But SCIACS were approaching in three weeks. We were about to start taper. This is crunch time. This is the most intense part of the season. We couldn’t not have practice.”

“It wasn’t fun, but beyond the first day we all decided that we weren’t going to let a little chlorine get in the way of our training – and we have a great story to tell next year,” said Corfman.

Facilities and Campus Services drained the pool in order to have normal chlorine levels by the end of the week.

The teams were out of the pool for most of Monday and Tuesday, and made up for the lost practice time with double practices the rest of the week.

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