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26 hospitalized, 1,500 evacuated in MGM Grand chemical leak at pool

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Erin Dostal

Metro Police block off an area near the intersection of Audrie Street and Harmon Avenue after a chlorine leak occurred in the MGM Grand’s pool area on Aug. 27, 2010.

Updated Friday, Aug. 27, 2010 | 6:34 p.m.

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Richard Brenner, the Clark County Fire Department HazMat Coordinator, speaks with the media after about 100 people were treated for breathing difficulties following a chlorine leak Friday, Aug. 27, 2010, at the MGM Grand pool area.

Map of MGM Grand Hotel and Casino

MGM Grand Hotel and Casino

3799 Las Vegas Boulevard S., Las Vegas

About 100 people were treated for breathing difficulties after excessive amounts of chlorine leaked into the lazy river at the MGM Grand pool area.

Richard Brenner, hazardous materials coordinator for the Clark County Fire Department, said 26 people were taken to five Las Vegas area hospitals, all of whom were conscious and alert. He said injuries were minor and no one became unconscious.

Brenner estimated that 1,500 people were at the pool area about 1:30 p.m. when it was evacuated. He said fire department crews treated about 100 people to determine whether they needed hospital care, Brenner said.

The water in the lazy river – which is not connected to the resort’s other pools – became over-chlorinated after a pump likely malfunctioned, Brenner said. A chlorine gas began evaporating off the water, filling the pool area with the noxious smell, he said.

“What it does is cause respiratory distress,” he said. “It’s hard for you to breathe … The only way to get it out is by breathing it out.”

Brenner said guests at the pool began to smell the chlorine, prompting MGM Grand to start the evacuation. Those who were overcome by the fumes were treated by breathing in large amounts of oxygen, Brenner said.

“They use sodium hypochlorite (to chlorinate water in the pools),” he said. “That’s bleach. That’s what they inject into the lazy river.”

No one will suffer long-term health effects from the brief exposure, Brenner said.

He said the leak appeared to be the result of an equipment failure as opposed to human error. He credited the MGM Grand’s staff with responding quickly and shutting off the valve.

MGM Resorts International spokesman Gordon Absher said the incident occurred after an injector valve on the chlorination system got stuck in the “on” position. The valve immediately was closed when noticed, Absher said.

MGM Grand’s pool complex spans 6.6 acres and includes five separate pools and the 1,000-foot lazy river.

Separate from the main pool area is WET Republic, a 53,000-square-foot adult pool complex. The pools are located at the rear of the property near the resort's convention center.

Sara Reaney, 26, of Dublin, Ireland, was at WET Republic with friends when the area was evacuated. She said the scene was organized and calm.

“The DJ just stopped and they told everybody to get out,” she said. “They just gave everybody passes for tomorrow.”

She said she and her friends, who are in town for a bachelorette party, probably would return to the pools this weekend.

The MGM Grand pool area was reopened at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

"We obviously do regular maintenance on our pools and water cleaning system," he said. "This was a malfunctioning valve. It was not because of a lack of maintenance."

Those who were hospitalized were taken to Valley Hospital Medical Center, University Medical Center, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, Spring Valley Hospital and St. Rose Dominican Hospitals - San Martin campus.

The Las Vegas Fire and Rescue hazardous materials team assisted Clark County firefighters.

Metro Police closed Audrie Street between Harmon Avenue and the MGM Grand valet as emergency crews arrived.

Sun reporter Amanda Finnegan contributed to this report.

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