A plastic bag blocking the inlet of fresh air into the pool heater’s equipment room may have caused the heater to fail and led to the build-up of carbon monoxide on Jan. 29, which sickened 16 people at the Hampton Inn in Marysville. according to a report from the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s office.
Inspector Bradley Merillat with the office of the State Fire Marshal was among the officials who conducted a follow-up inspection of the hotel on Jan. 31 after the Marysville Fire Department authorized the hotel to reopen.
When Merillat inspected the pool’s equipment room, “he found a plastic bag over the fresh air intake,” his report said. He also noted that the carbon monoxide (CO) detector present was not functioning.
Leakage of hotel pool in Marysville: Pool heater may have been source of carbon monoxide leak at Marysville hotel, officials say
Marysville and other fire departments responding to the 911 calls found CO levels at or about 1,100-1,300 parts per million (PPM) in the pool and on the first floor, 600 PPM on the second floor and 500 PPM on the third floor , the report said.
CO concentration at such levels “can be deadly if you sit in that environment for too long,” said Marysville Fire Department battalion commander Cole Tomlin. He added that other guests at the hotel could have gotten sick – or worse – if the leak hadn’t been reported that afternoon and everyone had gone to sleep that night.
Marysville Hampton Inn closes: Marysville Hampton Inn remains closed after suspected carbon monoxide leak is in hospital
Pool heating failure led to potentially deadly carbon monoxide leak
In the week leading up to the CO poisoning incident, Merillat reported, hotel director Justin Graham said the pool water temperature was dropping. Maintenance was in the process of switching the water heaters (the spa heater to the pool heater).
When maintenance attempted to shut down the water heaters, “a problem occurred with a fuse(s) blowing and another service person had to come from a different facility,” the report said.
Graham said maintenance personnel were able to run the heating for two days before the leak, sending emergency services to the hotel, the report said.
But Merillat examined the pool’s equipment room on Jan. 31, and he found a plastic bag blocking the inlet of fresh air, which could create a critical carbon monoxide problem for a natural gas pool heater or other combustible fuel appliance.
In addition, Merillat discovered that the CO detector in the technical room was not working. He plugged in a new device, which immediately alarmed at a function check.
Graham did not respond to calls from The Dispatch for comment.
Ohio’s building and fire codes do not mandate the installation of CO detectors in swimming pools. But the stakes are high for guests at potential risk of fatal exposure.
Across the country, there were 28 incidents and 12 deaths between 2005 and 2018 from “accidental (carbon monoxide) poisoning in hotels, motels and resorts” from natural gas pool heaters, according to a 2019 article in Preventive Medicine Reports.
Hotel was cited for multiple violations during previous inspection
The pool area of the hotel was not even allowed to open that night, as Union County had it closed on December 13 for repairs due to the absence of chlorine in the pool, floor tiles yearning in, and other issues.
“No permission has been obtained to start using this area,” Merillat said in the report.
Authorities have also notified the hotel of other issues in recent months. In June 2021, the Hampton Inn was cited for several fire code violations, including opening fire doors, an unlocked fire alarm panel switch and dry sprinkler system, and lack of permanent wiring for outlets.
Following its most recent inspection on Jan. 31, Merillat’s report said the hotel received another citation regarding an expired permit for the construction department and unapproved work on its electrical and plumbing systems.
The Hampton Inn has until Tuesday to resolve these issues. And the state fire department’s office has scheduled a re-inspection for Feb. 15.
Yilun Cheng is a Report for America Corps member and handles immigration issues for the Dispatch. Your donation to match our RFA grant will help her keep writing these kinds of stories. Then consider making a tax-deductible donation at https://bit.ly/3fNsGaZ.