The New York City Health Department announced that trace amounts of Legionella bacteria have been found in some of the cooling towers it recently tested in Lenox Hill. As it closed its investigation, the City stated that it is unlikely to discover the source of the outbreak. Rather than closing the investigation, the Alliance strongly urges the City to do a more comprehensive investigation.
One very important, unanswered question is how does Legionella bacteria enter a cooling tower? Every feature in a building that uses water is supplied with, and uses, the same water from the same source–the public water distribution system. If one device tests positive for Legionella, it’s more than likely other points throughout the building will also test positive. Why is the water that enters homes and buildings not being tested as part of the Health Department’s outbreak investigation?
Approximately 30 blocks from Lenox Hill, two police officers at the 23rd precinct recently contracted Legionnaires’ disease, and the potable water was tested. During this time, officers were advised not to use the precinct’s water for drinking or bathing until the water system was disinfected and further tests were completed. Yet, those in Lenox Hill were not provided with this same warning and didn’t have a single water system tested or disinfected.
The Health Department states that they had 100 of their personnel working on the Lenox Hill outbreak investigation; however, to our knowledge, there was not one water sample taken from outside or within any of the patients’ homes. Without conducting a comprehensive investigation, which includes the public water distribution system and the plethora of potential exposure points that exist throughout an affected area, the New York City Health Department will continue to miss the opportunity to collect the data necessary to proactively advance effective solutions that will decrease the number of cases and keep New Yorkers safe.