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Chemical spill forces evacuation of Lovejoy pool in Buffalo

A chemical spill at an indoor municipal swimming pool in Buffalo hospitalized one lifeguard and caused swimmers to evacuate Friday afternoon.

Two firefighters in hazardous material gear entered Lovejoy pool, 1171 E. Lovejoy St., to neutralize the spill. The state Department of Environmental Conservation also was notified.

Lifeguard Chris Patrella said another lifeguard noticed the chemicals in the pool were not changing, so she went to the basement to investigate at about 1:30 p.m. What she found was a small puddle of muriatic acid, a chemical commonly used to clean pools.

“She came running back up because she had inhaled a lot of the fumes,” Patrella said, still holding onto a small respirator. “So I had to go back down to make sure everything was off and clear the building.”

The lifeguard was transported to Erie County Medical Center, where she was treated and released, Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said.

He said the spill was caused by a mechanical failure.

“This was a very small hose – like to the ice-maker in your refrigerator – that sprung a leak,” he said.

Whitfield said the air in the building would be ventilated and monitored until it reached a safe level, but couldn’t say how long that might take.

He praised the response of the pool’s workers.

“The maintenance people here did a phenomenal job,” he said. “First in limiting the amount of acid that was released by shutting down the pumps and … making sure everybody was out the building. All those things were done, which limited people’s exposure.”

Instead of calling for emergency services, one pool worker simply walked to the fire station – Engine 28 – directly across the street.

The indoor pool is housed in what originally was an art deco-style movie theater built in the 1940s. It is open year-round.