Officials from Suffolk County, East Hampton Town and East Hampton Village have been looking into health concerns raised by swimmers at the YMCA in East Hampton who have recently claimed that pool usage there has caused respiratory illness, skin irritation and other issues.
But the executive director of the YMCA East Hampton RECenter said this week that there is “absolutely not” a public health issue, and that the Suffolk County Department of Health Services has signed off on the facility’s practices in various routine inspections of the site. He also said the YMCA plans to upgrade equipment that will help improve air and quality around the pools.
“We’re fine,” said Juan Castro, the executive director, noting that county officials visited the site at least twice in the last month. “They checked the water, they go around, they see our chemicals, they see our procedure, and we’re fine. Otherwise they would close us. They are the authority.”
Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said he toured the facility in November after getting complaints from about 50 people who were experiencing mostly respiratory issues. Upon inspection, he said he felt the “air wasn’t really moving” in the main room.
Suffolk County Department of Health Services Deputy Commissioner Barry S. Paul summarized the situation in a memo issued on December 27, in response to a request for assistance from Mr. Schneiderman. In it, he explains the chlorination process and how it creates byproducts such as chloramines, which can at times cause irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory system. It’s worse during periods of a higher bathing load—a trend that was confirmed by a YMCA employee interviewed during the visit.
The department conducts a “comprehensive” inspection at the facility two to three times a year, according to the memo. “There has not been a history of complaints or significant violations at this site,” it states. Still, it issued a list of items to come into compliance with and recommendations to help improve the issue, including testing the pool chemistry frequently during swim practice, encouraging all swimmers to take a shower with soap before using the pool, and consulting with an HVAC engineer about the air quality issues.
East Hampton Town pays the YMCA $590,000 a year to operate the facility, which is located on village property. Councilman Dominick Stanzione said the Town Board will take the matter up at its January 8 work session.