Blocked air inlet to pool heater at Marysville Hotel

A plastic bag blocking the fresh air inlet to the pool heater equipment room may have caused the heater to fail and lead to carbon monoxide buildup on January 29 that sickened 16 people at the Hampton Inn in Marysville, according to a report from the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Inspector Bradley Merillat of the state Fire Marshal’s office was among officials who conducted a follow-up inspection of the hotel Jan. 31 after the Marysville Fire Department allowed the hotel to reopen .

When Merillat inspected the pool equipment room, “it was found that there was a plastic bag over the fresh air intake,” according to his report. He also noted that the carbon monoxide (CO) detector in place was not working.

Marysville Hotel Pool Leak: Pool heater may have been source of carbon monoxide leak at Marysville Hotel, officials say

Marysville and other fire departments responding to 911 calls found CO levels around 1,100 to 1,300 parts per million (PPM) in the pool area and on the first floor, 600 PPM on the second floor and 500 PPM on the third floor, the report says.

Concentrations of CO at such levels “can be deadly if you stay in that environment too long,” said Battalion Chief Cole Tomlin of the Marysville Fire Division. He added that other hotel guests could have gotten sick – or worse – if the leak had not been reported that afternoon and everyone had fallen asleep that night.

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Pool heater failure led to life-threatening carbon monoxide leak

In the week before the CO poisoning incident, Merillat reported, the hotel’s general manager, Justin Graham, said the pool water temperature was dropping. Maintenance was changing the water heaters (spa heater to pool heater).

When maintenance attempted to switch the water heaters, “a problem occurred with one or more fuses blown and required another maintenance person to come from another facility,” the report said.

Graham said maintenance staff managed to get the heater running two days before the leak sent rescuers to the hotel, according to the report.

But Merillat examined the pool equipment room on January 31, he found a plastic bag blocking the fresh air intake, which could create a critical carbon monoxide problem for a gas pool heater. natural or any other fuel-burning appliance.

In addition, Merillat discovered that the CO detector in the technical room was not working. He plugged in a new device, which alerted immediately after a functional check.

Graham did not respond to calls from The Dispatch for comment.

Ohio building and fire codes do not require the installation of CO detectors in swimming pools. But the stakes are high for customers at potential risk of fatal exposure.

Nationwide, there were 28 incidents and 12 deaths from 2005 to 2018 due to “unintentional (carbon monoxide) poisoning in hotels, motels and resorts” as a result of pool heaters in natural gas, according to a 2019 article in Preventive Medicine Reports.

The hotel had been cited for multiple infractions in a previous inspection

The hotel’s pool wasn’t even supposed to be open that night because Union County had ordered it closed for repairs on December 13 due to lack of chlorine in the pool, lack of floor tiles which were missing and other problems.

“No permission has been obtained to begin using this area,” Merillat said in the report.

Authorities have also alerted the hotel to other problems in recent months. In June 2021, the Hampton Inn was cited for multiple fire code violations, including opening fire doors, an unlocked fire alarm panel circuit breaker and dry sprinkler system, and failure to permanent wiring used to power electrical outlets.

Following the most recent inspection on Jan. 31, Merillat’s report says the hotel received another citation regarding an expired building service permit and unapproved work performed on electrical and plumbing systems.

The Hampton Inn has until Tuesday to resolve these issues. And the state fire marshal’s office has scheduled another inspection for Feb. 15.

Yilun Cheng is a Report for America staff member and covers immigration issues for the Dispatch. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps him keep writing stories like this. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation at https://bit.ly/3fNsGaZ.

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