Campus chlorine gas leak

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A health hazard pictogram with the words “CHLORINE GAS” in bold red letters above it with a yellow checkered background.
Oh, so that’s why the pool was closed… OpenIcons via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

An FYI on what all that commotion was about on January 28

The University of Regina’s (U of R) Aquatics Centre closed for repairs after a chlorine gas leak was found and reported on January 28, 2024. The Aquatics Centre is primarily intended for student and University swimming team use, but it offers daily public swim hours and programs.  

The pool is on the main floor of the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport (CKHS) building. The CKHS and attached Education building were evacuated after the leak was detected. The evacuation order was played over campus speakers but did not specify the nature of the emergency, potentially causing unnecessary anxiety about the situation. U of R Student Affairs sent out an email at 6:56 p.m. that night to inform the student body of the situation.   

In this email, students were informed of the leak, assured that no injuries were reported, and told of the precautions taken to ensure safety. It states: “No injuries were reported as the pool was not being used at the time. Only one maintenance worker was on site and they were wearing a respirator and other protective equipment. The leak was contained and ventilation and air testing efforts were undertaken. The area has now been declared safe and the evacuation order has been lifted.” 

One of the Carillon’s writers, on campus at the time of the evacuation, reported that the alarm started around 11:05 a.m., and informed the Carillon staff at 11:34 a.m. that the university’s emergency alert website and app said nothing about the emergency. The Student Affairs email was sent out at least seven hours after the emergency evacuation was issued, from this information.  

Although students who were in the CKHS building or using the Fitness and Lifestyle Centre on the second floor before the evacuation may be anxious about a chlorine leak, it should be noted that chlorine gas does not rise. According to Chemtech International, “The molecular structure of chlorine gas makes it very dense, which means it will displace the air at a low level when it is released into a space. It will collect close to the ground, and spread rapidly across the space.” 

 The location of the leak is not specified, but the phrasing of the email sent out to the students suggests that the leak was found in an employee-only section of the facility and dealt with safely. 

Additionally, the use of chlorine gas in swimming pools should be explained. Chlorine is used to disinfect swimming water, and the “smell” of indoor pools comes from the chloramines that form when reacting with sweat and urine. This is why pools have the rules of “no peeing in the pool” and “shower before you swim.” 

However, it may seem uncommon for pools to use chlorine gas, given the stronger risks associated with improper storage, maintenance, and leaks. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, “chlorine usually comes from ‘chlorinating agents’ that release chlorine when they are dissolved in the water. Chlorine gas may be used in large pools. The chlorine-based disinfectants may be called ‘chlorinating liquid’, ‘dry chlorine’ or ‘liquid chlorine.’” Dry chlorine refers to chlorine in a powdered form; liquid chlorine is a solution of chlorine gas and water.  

Chlorine gas is yellowish, heavy, and smells like bleach. Exposure to chlorine gas can cause eye irritation and abnormal breathing, with skin irritation following higher concentrations. 

The Carillon has reached out to the Aquatics Centre for further information on the situation, repairs, and safety measures put in place to prevent another gas leak. 

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