The Samohi boys' water polo team in 2015. (File photo)

A Santa Monica High School student who said he suffered lung injuries when chlorine gas leaked into the school’s pool building last month has filed a claim against the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

A senior at Samohi and a member of the water polo team said he became unable to breathe during the gas leak and vomited repeatedly. He was transported to the emergency room at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, according to the complaint that attorney Khail A. Parris filed Sept. 10.

Parris said the student has suffered from shortness of breath, nausea and headaches since the incident and has had difficulty sleeping. He has seen two pulmonologists and is waiting on test results, Parris said.

“I would characterize his symptoms as similar to asthma,” he said.

Contractors working on the Discovery building severed a gas line in the science quad Aug. 22, the first day of school for all SMMUSD students. The main gas feed to the campus was quickly turned off, said Carey Upton, the district’s chief operations officer.

Maintenance staff began repairing the gas line around 3 p.m. and bled the line of air, allowing some natural gas to escape. Upton said staff then restarted the boiler for the swimming pool, which expelled chlorine gas into the pool while the boys’ water polo team was in the water.

“The students had a range of respiratory symptoms, including (a) burning sensation in the nose and throat, coughing, chest tightness (and) difficulty breathing,” Upton wrote in a letter to parents. “The students should recover from the respiratory impact of exposure to chlorine gas at this level in a few days.”

The team’s coach cleared the pool and evacuated all students out of the building, Upton said. 11 students sought medical attention and all but one were cleared later that day.

Upton said the district will install a new pool filter and service the pool only when swimmers are not present to prevent future leaks.

Parris said his client will seek damages to cover his past and future medical expenses and the inconvenience and suffering he has sustained since the incident.

“We would also perform our own inspection of the pool, its equipment and its maintenance records,” he said.

SMMUSD spokesperson Gail Pinsker said the district does not comment on pending litigation, but Superintendent Ben Drati and Samohi principal Antonio Shelton met with families following the gas leak and the district is working with them regarding medical claims stemming from the incident.

“We regret that this occurred, and have remedied the cause of the chlorine leak to prevent this from happening again,” Pinsker said. “The health and safety of our students and staff are our top priorities.”

The Discovery building, which is scheduled to open by the end of 2021, will house 38 classrooms for the school’s M and O houses, including science and computer labs, three multipurpose rooms, common areas and seminar rooms. The building will also be home to a full-service kitchen and cafeteria, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a suite for medically fragile students and a rooftop garden classroom. 288 parking spaces will be incorporated into the three-story, 280,000 square-foot complex.

Voters approved Measure ES in 2012, which allocated $385 million to fund the Discovery building and other facilities improvements. Construction began in April.

Editor’s note: The parents of the student have requested that his name be removed from this story. The student was identified to the Daily Press by his attorney.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *