A Texas water park has been closed indefinitely after dozens of people were sickened from a chemical irritant linked to the park’s kiddie pool, authorities said.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Splashtown in Spring, just north of Houston, was ordered closed by a local judge on Saturday after bathers began suffering skin and respiratory problems.
About 60 people were affected and at least 31 of them were taken to area hospitals, according to the Spring Fire Department. One woman went into labor and a child, described as “the most serious case,” was rushed to a hospital but was later stabilized, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who ordered the park’s closure, said at a press conference.
Bleach and 35% sulfuric acid are believed to be behind the illnesses, the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office said in a statement. Rachel Neutzler, a spokesperson for the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office, said both chemicals were used to keep the pool clean and maintain a balanced pH.
“These are normal chemicals that are used every day at these facilities,” she told The New York Times. “But these are the specific chemicals that we believe are causing the respiratory and skin irritations. We just don’t know why. We don’t know if there was too much. We don’t know if it was in the air. We don’t know if there was a malfunction.”
Hidalgo said air and water samples taken at the park didn’t detect anything unusual. The park’s water monitoring system also didn’t give off any warnings, “but obviously we had evidence from these folks being sick that something was wrong.”
Due to the immediate inability to determine the exact cause, she said, the park is closed until further notice and cannot reopen “without having improved their systems so that this doesn’t happen again.”
Steven Morris and his 9-year-old daughter, Lia, were among the parkgoers taken to a local hospital. Morris told local station KPRC that his daughter was crying and vomiting after coming out of the water.
“I thought it was a terrorist attack. It felt like we got gassed,” he said.
Another parkgoer, identified only as Hunter, told the station his son was being monitored at a hospital with concerns of long-term health effects.
“It’s very traumatic, man. My heart goes out to all the families out there and all the kids. It couldn’t happen in the worst spot,” he said.