Highly chlorinated pool water discharged into Little Bay Pond | THE DAILY HERALD

On the left a screenshot of a video showing the pool water flowing through the gutter into Little Bay Pond. On the right the drain pipe from the Raoul Illidge pool to the gutter.

 PHILIPSBURG–Some 115,000 gallons of pool water with a hazardous level of chlorine ended up in Little Bay Pond on Wednesday. This water came from the public swimming pool at Raoul Illidge Sports Complex (RISC) that has been closed since March 8, due to excess chlorine.

  Chlorine, usually in solid tablet or liquid form, is a strong antibacterial agent used to treat the water to keep it clean and germ- and algae-free. While a chlorine concentration of one to three parts per million (ppm) is regular for pools, the pool water at RISC contained over 30ppm tests at the Environmental Laboratory in Simpson Bay showed.

  On Tuesday night, drainage of the pool was started, with the water flowing into the gutter overnight. The Daily Herald received reports about a pungent stench of chlorine from the open trench alongside the parking lot of RISC, leading past the St. Maarten Medical Center towards the roundabout, going underground and ending in Little Bay Pond.

  Nature Foundation St. Maarten condemns this action which is deemed reckless. “It is completely irresponsible to release the water into the pond,” said Leslie Hickerson, president of Nature Foundation. “The aquatic life in the pond is already susceptible to environmental threats. This chlorinated water further weakens chances of survival and will negatively impact biodiversity.”

  Speaking on behalf of PRIDE Foundation and Environmental Protection in The Caribbean (EPIC), environmentalist Rueben Thompson confirmed: “The heavily acidic water forms an extreme acute threat to the aquatic environment, it is harmful to fish, birds and plants.”

  Chlorine threatens aquatic plants and wildlife in two ways. First, chlorine can directly harm organisms by destroying their cell walls or damaging their proteins by oxidation. In fish, chlorine burns the gills. At the same time, it absorbs into the bloodstream and causes burns throughout the fish. It has a similar effect on invertebrates, who absorb it through their surfaces. These burns can cause serious damage to marine organisms.

  Second, the chemicals can bond with other materials to form harmful compounds. By-products such as trihalomethanes or haloacetic acids have been shown to be very toxic to aquatic organisms. In addition, chloramine has been identified as carcinogen.

  “The Ministry of VROMI and the Inspectorate of VSA upon learning of the excessive chlorination of the pool at Raoul Illidge should have instructed the facility’s managers on the measures which needed to be taken to neutralise the Hydrochloric Acid HCL before releasing the water into the environment,” Thompson said. “In the absence of proper instructions from government the Managers of the Pool should have known to seek expert advice on how to move forward with proper disposal of the water.”

  Chlorine can be removed from water by filtration, using a process known as reverse osmosis. However, this would not be an option on St. Maarten. Another method is chemical neutralisation, which involves adding more chemicals to the water in order to get rid of any chlorine. Likely the best chemical to use for chemical neutralisation is potassium metabisulfite, which comes in the form of small tablets. Once the tablet dissolves in the water, it will effectively neutralise the chlorine before evaporating.

  For the public swimming pool at RISC, a total of 5,750 metabisulfite tablets would be required to neutralise the chlorine in the pool.

  Paradise Pools NV, the company responsible for keeping the pool at RISC clean, added the excess chlorine by mistake, managing director Sophie Coen told this newspaper on Wednesday. The resulting high level of chlorine could not be registered with the water testing and measuring equipment the company uses.

  In order to prevent recurrence in the future, the management of Paradise Pools decided to test the pool water on a weekly basis with new, more sophisticated measuring equipment that has been ordered abroad and is scheduled to arrive in St. Maarten within the next two weeks. The company will also take a sample from the pool water each month to be tested at the Environmental Laboratory in Simpson Bay, the company’s director said.

  In addition, the water of the public pool, where 600 school children get swimming lessons each week, will be refreshed more often, Paradise Pool announced. “We will drain the pool on a regular basis and fill it with fresh water.”

  Nature Foundation stated an incident report will be drawn up. The coordinator will contact the authorities to discuss measures to prevent the Little Bay Pond from becoming more contaminated with chlorine.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/highly-chlorinated-pool-water-discharged-into-little-bay-pond