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Ohio Health Officials Investigate Ailments of Water Park
 Visitors at Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio
By Tom Daykin, Milwaukee Journal SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Mar. 10, 2007 - Public health officials in Ohio are investigating complaints of burning eyes, coughing and other symptoms experienced by people who've visited a water park resort operated by Madison-based Great Wolf Resorts Inc.

The Warren County Health Department has received complaints from around 80 families who've patronized the Great Wolf Lodge, in Mason, Ohio, since it opened in December, said Dave Collins, the department's environmental health director.

Complaints spiked after a report about the problem appeared this week in the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper, Collins said Friday.

The Great Wolf customers said they suffered from burning eyes, coughing and chest tightness after entering the water park, he said.

No one has been hospitalized, and most of the people who had problems found relief after leaving the water park, Collins said.

And while the complaints received so far affect several hundred people, that amounts to a relatively small proportion of the 2,000 to 3,000 people who visit the water park on the average weekend, he said.

"It's not a major problem," said Collins, who said Great Wolf managers have cooperated with health authorities in investigating the complaints.

Collins said he suspects the problems are a result of exposure to chloramines.

Chloramines are created when chlorine in a swimming pool bonds with organic compounds -- including sweat and urine -- on the bodies of swimmers, he said. That's why swimmers are usually urged to shower before they go into a pool, Collins said.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health is to conduct tests next week at Great Wolf Lodge for the presence of chloramines, Collins said.

Previous tests conducted by Great Wolf found no problems, he said, but those tests were not for chloramines.

Great Wolf, in a statement, said its water quality systems are monitored continuously, and tested every two hours.

Those tests, along with tests by county and state authorities, have confirmed safe chlorine levels in the water, the statement said.

"It is important to point out that chlorine is a chemical and, as is the case with any swimming pool, it can cause a reaction in a few people while causing no reaction in most," Great Wolf's statement said.

Great Wolf spokeswoman Jennifer Beranek declined to comment on whether reports of the problem have affected business at the resort.

She said the publicly traded company doesn't disclose performance reports on its individual resorts.

The company operates Great Wolf resorts in the Wisconsin Dells area and eight other locations, and has two other resorts under construction.

Great Wolf also operates Blue Harbor Resort & Conference Center in Sheboygan.

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Copyright (c) 2007, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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