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Pool temporary closes after student falls ill from heat

Published: February 10, 2012
Section: Featured


Newly opened Linsey Pool closed last Saturday, Feb. 4, following an incident involving a Brandeis student requiring medical assistance after swimming laps in pool temperatures that reached more than 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Though the pool is now open and has returned to a normal temperature, staff felt it necessary to discontinue service for the remainder of the weekend to ensure the safety of swimmers.

The announcement Saturday morning cited “emergency repairs” to the pool as the reason it closed.

Reports are mixed on whether the swimmer, a graduate student, lost consciousness. According to Sheryl Sousa, Director of Athletics, “the lifeguard observed a male on the pool deck who appeared not to be feeling well,” but, in an e-mail to the lifeguarding staff, Ben White said “a swimmer feinted [sic] on the deck after finishing a swim.” The police log does not report unconsciousness. All agree, however, that the pool staff reacted admirably. The lifeguards on duty activated the Emergency Action Plan and notified both BEMCo and Public Safety. The swimmer was treated by BEMCo but signed off for further assistance.

As swimming in water that is warmer than body temperature delays the dissipation of heat and can cause nausea, vomiting, light-headedness and dehydration, as well as muscle spasms and lack of control and heart arrhythmia, Linsey staff determined that the pool was to be closed for the remainder of the shift and remained out of service until Monday morning once the problem was resolved.

The facilities department and contractors investigated the cause of the high air and water temperatures at Linsey, and discovered a faulty sensor on the unit that controls the pool and air temperature, though by Saturday the pool had dropped to 84 degrees, only slightly above the normal temperature.

Maintenance had noticed fluctuations in the temperature control earlier in the week and were monitoring the pool closely but not until the water temperature peaked on Friday afternoon did facilities call in contractors, who, according to Sousa, “had a team of people working all weekend to diagnose and correct the problem.”

The sensor that dehumidified and regulated temperature was meant to keep both the room and the pool at approximately 80 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, but was arbitrarily activating and causing the pool and natatorium to be unduly warm.

Indoor pools, according to Michael Kern of MGK Pool Services, a water maintenance company in the Massachusetts area, only need to be checked about once a day, depending on how heavily used it is.

“It is possible,” he explained, “for everyone to be doing their jobs, and have the pool temperature go out of range in between service intervals,” if a thermostat or sensor had malfunctioned.