City of Berkeley advises closure of Berkeley High School swimming pool

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Chen Gong/File

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Updated 9/14/18: This article has been updated to reflect further information from Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Charles Burress. 

The city of Berkeley asked the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, to close the Berkeley High School swimming pool Wednesday, after students reported hair loss and eye irritation from chemical imbalances in the water, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

City staff visited the pool and tested it Monday morning, and the test results came back normal, city spokesperson Matthai Chakko said to Berkeleyside. After staff members looked into the issue more, they made a recommendation that BUSD close the pool until the equipment that malfunctioned and caused the chemical imbalance could be fixed or replaced, according to Chakko.

“Although our readings of the levels in the water have been in the safe range over the past several days, we decided, in consultation with a City of Berkeley health inspector, to close the pool rather than continue manual management of chlorine levels,” said BUSD officials in an email sent on Wednesday to parents and guardians of Berkeley High School water polo athletes.

The school can expect the pool to be ready for use by Tuesday, after the equipment is expected to be fixed by Monday, BUSD spokesperson Charles Burress said in an email.

The chemical imbalance was caused by a chemical feed controller that pumped too much chlorine into the pool and failed to properly read the levels, making it seem as though the levels were normal, according to Burress. In addition to the chemical imbalance, the heater failed over the weekend and was turned back on Sept. 4.

According to Chakko, the last time the city instructed the school to shut down the pool was in 2013, when swimmers and water polo players reported hair loss and eye irritation due to high pH and chlorine levels in the water.

Berkeley High School and district administrators will hold a meeting answering questions and concerns about the pool’s issues Monday at 6 p.m. in the Berkeley High School library, according to the email sent to parents. 

Hannah Piette is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Hannah_PietteDC.