A chemical leak discovered on Monday near an outdoor swimming pool led to the closure of La Cañada High School for all grades, 7-12, that day.
“In the 5 a.m. hour this morning, in response to the pool equipment alarm, LCHS operations personnel detected the spill and 911 was called,” Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said in an email to the La Cañada Unified School District community.
Sinnette told the Outlook that she sent an initial message to parents and staff at around 7 a.m. about the chemical leak and the closure of school, and followed up with a more detailed email at 3:30 p.m. After the 911 call, Sinnette described the scene to the Outlook.
“We had a really tremendous response from the [Los Angeles County] Fire Department, they rolled out at least six trucks that were all there. It was quite a scene at about 6 o’clock in the morning,” said Sinnette.
At first, the district didn’t know the extent of the leak and decided that closing the school would be best, to mitigate any potential exposures to chemicals and fumes.
Later, officials found out that the spill was contained to the chemical room at the new pool.
The district worked with the Fire Department Hazardous Materials Division and the California Office of Emergency Services to ensure that the cleanup process did not pose any potential health risks and that there were no mechanical violations. The incident’s cause was a leak in the tubing. The district later learned that the chemical was muriatic acid. The acid is usually used to deep clean and break down the residue found in pool filters.
“LCUSD Maintenance and Operations are currently conducting a thorough investigation to prevent similar incidents in the future. The area has been professionally cleaned and cleared,” said Sinnette.
Sinnette assured the community that the campus would be safe to be open the next day for students and staff members, and classes resumed on Tuesday. Although there were no physical injuries, Sinnette mentioned that some LCUSD workers felt a slight burning in their eyes.
“We had two LCUSD staff members on our custodial and operations crew at the high school who talked of [feeling] a little bit of burning. They had been near the fumes and so we did send them to the emergency room, but there wasn’t any sort of physical injury. They were given some eyedrops and just checked out, they were fine,” said Sinnette.
First published in the March 16 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.