Chemical leak at Edinburgh swimming baths

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By Cara Sulieman

A MAN was being treated in hospital last night after a chemical incident at one of Scotland’s most prestigious private swimming clubs.

The 32-year-old was rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after being exposed to chemical chlorine at the £900-a-year member only Drumsheugh Baths Club in the city’s New Town.

A fleet of eight fire engines, five paramedics and police emergency teams were scrambled to the popular club at around tea-time following what was said to be a “chlorine leak”.

Rescuers donned chemical suits and breathing apparatus to rescue the worst affected victim, before a clean-up operation and investigation into how the incident swung into action.

“Normal procedure”

It was understood the man may have inhaled fumes from the leak needing urgent medical attention.

Chlorine is a toxic gas that irritates the respiratory system.

Depending on the level of concentration, it can cause anything from coughing and vomiting, lung damage or death. It can also irritate the eyes.

The Scottish Ambulance Service confirmed it got the call from Drumsheugh Baths Club in Edinburgh at around 5.15 pm last night (Tues) and sent five ambulances to deal with the incident.

An ambulance spokesman said: “We attended an incident at Drumsheugh Baths Club at 5.15pm.

“We treated one male casualty in his 30s before taking him to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

“Our specialist units stayed on the scene to ensure that there were no other casualties.

“This is normal procedure for this type of incident.”

The incident comes just months after the club had to beg its members for a £40,000 loan last year when the Royal Bank of Scotland refused to extend their overdraft.

“Precaution”

The club re-opened in April 2005 after undergoing a £1.2million refurbishment which was partly funded by Historic Scotland.

But the financial burden on the club from the loans it took out to fund the work meant that they had to beg their members for cash to tide them over until the annual fees came in.

And despite the significant emergency response and disruption to the area Wayne Davies, manager at the baths, tried to play down the drama.

He said: “It is not a serious incident at all, it is a minor incident and precautions had to be taken.

“We have the emergency services down on site as a precaution.

“No-one is seriously hurt or injured. There is one person involved in this incident.”

Belford Road was closed to traffic as Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service inspected the building and other emergency services were on standby.

Police officers and patrol cars were posted at the entrance of the club while neighbours craned their necks from windows to get a better look at what was happening.

“Popular”

The street was blocked off at both ends to allow specialist teams room to move in with special equipment including chemical suits and decontamination equipment.

Anne Charter, 50, a secretary, was heading for her evening swim after work when she realised there had been an accident.

She said: “I knew something was wrong when I saw the flashing blue lights. I got right up to the door but a policeman told me there had been a chemical incident.

“It can be busy at this time of night. There are usually about ten of us in the Turkish baths and a dozen in the gym but there aren’t any children because they don’t let them in the evening and that is why it is so popular.

“Hopefully it won’t close for too long.”

One local – who wouldn’t be named – lives immediately above the baths and described seeing the victim taken to safety.

He said: “The fire engines stopped outside, there were a few of them. Two guys pulled on chemical suits and went inside.

“A few minutes later they brought a man out, wrapped in a blanket, and on a wheelchair.

“It looked as if he didn’t have any clothes on. But it obviously wasn’t a fire.”

No risk to public

It was unclear if the casualty was a member of staff or customer.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Police said there was no immediate risk to the general public’s health.

The clear up operation continued into the evening, with supplies of bottle drinking water being delivered to those still stuck inside, while investigations got underway.

Around 400 members pay up to £900 a year for services including having their trunks laundered and then left in their own private lockers.

The club was founded in 1882 and has individual cubicles for poolside changing and members’ personal lockers. There are also two saunas, a hot tub, a gym and a lounge.

Most of the subscribing members have used the baths for most of their lives, with some families having memberships that span three generations.

In 2001, 48 people had to be taken to hospital after a chlorine gas leak at the Time Capsule leisure centre in Coatbridge.

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