LENEXA, Kan. –Johnson County officials are investigating hazardous conditions that left athletes struggling to breathe and even passing out at a local aquatic center this weekend.
At the USA Swimming Central Zone Championships, Johnson County Med-Act confirmed said two 13-year-olds were taken to the hospital due to conditions inside the Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.
“I feel like once I get out of the water, I still can’t breathe,” Riley Dunnett, a swimmer from Illinois, told FOX4 on Saturday.
“We should be inside, but the air quality is so freaking bad you can’t be inside. The kids can’t be inside. We can’t be inside because people are getting sick and passing out,” Alicin Skinner, a parent of a swimmer, told FOX4 on Saturday.
On Tuesday, the Johnson County Health Department, Johnson County Parks and Recreation and the Shawnee Mission School District confirmed they’re working together to figure out what happened this weekend at the Shawnee Mission Aquatic Center.
Some athletes were forced to stop competing. In fact, the conditions were so poor, an entire team from Iowa pulled out of the competition.
Races on Friday night were stopped, and race day was shortened on Saturday.
In a statement, the district said it immediately started testing chemical levels after receiving reports of illness, and crews worked overnight to make sure mechanical systems were working properly.
Shawnee Mission spokesman David Smith said all chlorine levels were normal, but there were hundreds of competitors, more than they expected. They believe that overworked the chlorine, creating off-gases that caused problems.
“I think we need to make sure we’re limiting the numbers in the pool so we don’t run into this again,” Smith said. “That’s learning experience we’ll definitely take to heart. Obviously, Johnson County Parks and Rec is who runs that. They’re aware of it, and we’ll be careful.”
On Tuesday, the school district released the following statement to FOX4:
On Friday, August 4, 2023, the Shawnee Mission School District and Johnson County Park and Recreation District were made aware of athletes reporting symptoms of illness at the Shawnee Mission Aquatic Center.
These symptoms were reported during the Central Zones 14&U Championship Meet, hosted by the Kansas City Blazers and organized by USA Swimming. All events outside of Shawnee Mission School District are scheduled and operated by Johnson County Park and Recreation District.
We observed and received reports of attendees experiencing eye and respiratory irritation. Two competitors were transported to the hospital to seek treatment.
Immediately upon receiving reports of safety concerns, procedures were put into action to ensure the safety of athletes and spectators. Chemical levels within the competition and instructional pools were tested and reported to the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE), and reporting continued through the duration of the meet.
The event was stopped in the evening on Friday, August 4 so that concerns raised could be fully investigated and addressed. Crews worked overnight to make sure all mechanical systems were operating for competition to continue safely, with modifications made to the meet format and schedule.
The Shawnee Mission School District, Johnson County Park and Recreation District, and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment are working collaboratively to investigate the cause of the issue.
Safety is a priority for any activity at the Shawnee Mission Aquatic Center.