Mainland Regional High School students exit the building after school officials declare an early dismissal due to a chemical spill near the pool. Several students had to be sent to the hospital.


LINWOOD — Mainland Regional High School is investigating what caused a chemical reaction Friday morning that required an evacuation of the building and sent at least 16 people to the hospital.

Emergency medical personnel and firefighters were at Mainland Regional at 9:30 a.m. after the incident produced noxious fumes near the school’s pool, police said.

Superintendent Tom Baruffi said 28 students and staff were affected by the fumes.

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Shore Medical Center in Somers Point reported 16 people were treated and released. Police said they were not notified of any critical injuries.

The school notified parents about the chemical spill and students were dismissed at about 10:45 a.m. Buses came to take the students home after they were let out, Baruffi said.

At about noon, Linwood polce said the school had been vented and the fumes cleared.

Mainland officials said the building was open for after-school activities Friday and that they would return to a regular schedule Monday.

"This was a surprise to him and to us," Baruffi said about the 15-year employee who was mixing the chemicals in a drum to disinfect the pool system.

Baruffi said the chemical being used at Mainland is not supposed to contain chlorine, but when the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Preparedness hazardous materials team tested it, they found chlorine in it.

"We don't know if something is mislabeled or if it's human error," Baruffi said.

The state’s health rules for public pools specifically define the setup for pool disinfecting systems, and state chlorine or chlorine compounds are typically used. It also states, “Chlorine causes burns, severe eye hazard, and other injuries which may be fatal if inhaled.”

At Mainland, however, the pool is disinfected through a nonchlorine “shock treatment.”

Dierdre Lenzsch, 16, said she went to the hallway near the spill to attend a class but felt nauseous.

"It was like a wet, stale bathing suit smell," she said. She had a migraine soon after and was asked to go to the emergency room.

Lenzsch said when she arrived in the Shore Medical Center ER she saw her classmates waiting in a long line.

Contact Anjalee Khemlani:


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