The National September 11 Memorial and Museum was evacuated on Sunday after reports of visitors coughing and complaining of a strong odor. The Daily Mail reported people were evacuated from the memorial around 2 p.m. on Sunday once the smell was reported. The memorial closure was just a precaution though as a hazmat team moved in to locate the source of the odor. By 4 p.m. officials had reopened the memorial and visitors were safe to enter again. As of yet, no press release has been issued on the 9/11 memorial website.
But what caused the odor?
First reports indicate the foul smell was caused by chlorine, a chemical that maintains water integrity and prevents bacteria blooms, but is very dangerous to health if the correct levels are not properly maintained. However, a recent update to a statement by Michael Frazier, a spokesperson for the 9/11 memorial, as told to the International Business Times, indicates the odor was caused by decomposing algae. It is possible the algae decomposition was caused by chlorine use but it not now believed the chlorine odor caused any illness. Because of the algae problem, the fountain remained closed after the memorial was reopened.
“As a precaution, the FDNY [Fire Department of New York] temporarily suspended operations on the Memorial plaza after a complaint of an odor. It was determined by the authorities that what Memorial visitors smelled posed no health or safety risks and operations have resumed. The odor was believed to be decomposing algae.”
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum stands where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood and recently celebrated its one year anniversary. Twin reflection pools were built as a memorial to the lives lost during the 9/11 attack. It was designed by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker and features the names of every person who died during the 9/11 attacks. At nearly an acre in size for each pool, they are considered the largest man-made water structures in the U.S.
While many visitors reported coughing symptoms as a result of the strong odor, there were no other reports of causalities. Executive health consultant, Dr. Michael Caldwell posted the following to Twitter after the memorial evacuation:
— Michael Caldwell MD (@healthchief) May 17, 2015
At the time of publication, the south pool of the 9/11 memorial is still closed but visitors are able to access the rest of the memorial.
[Image credit: Getty Images]