Anne Arundel campers sickened by chemicals in pool

Thirty-five people were hospitalized Wednesday after being sickened by chemicals at a swimming pool at YMCA Camp Letts in Edgewater, Anne Arundel County fire officials said.

Of the 35 patients, 31 were children age 6 to 16. None of the injuries were life-threatening, officials said.

The incident was caused by a malfunctioning pump that regulates chemicals in a camp swimming pool, said Carla Larrick, vice president of operations for the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.

"The pump went out, probably due to the storm that took place [Tuesday] night," she said.

When the pump restarted, it caused a large amount of either sodium hypochlorite or muriatic acid to be released into the pool, fire officials said.

Employees at the center realized there was a problem, evacuated the pool and had the children shower, said Capt. Mike Pfaltzgraff of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. The chemicals did not cause injury to their skin, he said.

Patients were taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and Queen Anne's Emergency Center in Queenstown.

The patients were sent to different places so as not to overwhelm one hospital, Pfaltzgraff said.

The Fire Department received 911 calls just before 10 a.m. for complaints that multiple children were suffering from nausea and vomiting at Camp Letts.

Some parents arrived even before officials compiled a list of injured campers and alerted them; they gathered behind police officers as ambulances passed to take people to medical facilities.

"Not knowing if your kid is in there is really scary," said Heather Sandell of Annapolis, whose 12-year-old son, Jack, was attending the camp.

By midafternoon, 15 of the children were on their way home, said Jackie Dilworth, director of communications for YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. She said those remaining in the hospital into the evening were experiencing respiratory problems.

Camp Letts was founded in 1906 and moved to its present location on a 219-acre peninsula on the Rhode River in 1922.

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