Two cases of Legionnaires’ disease and the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water system have prompted officials of the Legacy House assisted living facility in Taylorsville, Utah, to implement water restrictions.
One resident at Legacy House of Taylorsville – located at 6302 South Gold Medal Drive – took ill with Legionnaires’ disease in early April. The second illness was confirmed last week by the Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD), which advised the facility to stop all tap water use.
The SLCoHD said it had previously collected water samples that tested positive for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. Results from a second round of tests are expected next week.
“We want to make sure that all of our residents are safe,” said Legacy House executive director Nathan Cluff, who also said tests for seven other residents came back negative.
There were 17 reports of Legionnaires’ disease – also known as legionellosis or Legionella pneumonia – recorded in Salt Lake County in 2018. County officials said there are about 25 reports of the disease yearly.
Legacy House officials posted signs in resident rooms, bathrooms, and above drinking fountains warning against using the water. In addition, staff has been supplying bottled water to residents for drinking, washing, and bathing.
“Out of an abundance of precaution, we’re going to implement these water restrictions just to make sure we keep people safe until the problem’s been remediated,” Cluff said.
Residents also received a letter from the SLCoHD informing them to take the following precautions until “water maintenance activities” are finished:
- Drink bottled water only.
- Take only sponge baths in rooms, no showers.
- Washing dishes with tap water is acceptable, but be sure to fill the sink slowly to avoid creating a mist.
The remediation efforts have advanced far enough that “designated shower rooms,” equipped with filters to eliminate Legionella, were set up. “We have residents showering again … safely,” Cluff said, “and we’ll be calling in some extra staff to help us catch up on our shower schedule.”
Warm water problematic
To lead the remediation process, Legacy House officials have hired Legionella Specialties, a water management company in Murray, Utah, to eradicate Legionella bacteria, which are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor.
“We’re looking for spots where the water would be turned into aerosol, like a showerhead, a fountain, a hot tub,” company owner Steve Madsen told KSL-TV. “It can even be a drinking fountain or a sink in a room.”
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Legionella can multiply at temperatures between 68 degrees and 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and temps of 90 degrees to 105 degrees are optimal for the bacteria to grow. Because Legionella prefers warm water to hot water, the bacteria often are found in assisted-living facilities, where the water temperature is controlled to prevent burns, said Nathan Rupp, SLCoHD communications coordinator.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), other human-made environments conducive to the growth of Legionella bacteria include:
- water systems of large buildings (hospitals, hotels, etc.)
- large plumbing systems
- hot-water heaters and tanks
- bathroom showers and faucets
- physical therapy equipment
- whirlpools, hot tub, swimming pools
- mist machines, like those in the produce sections of grocery stores
- hand-held sprayers
- decorative fountains
- air-conditioning system cooling towers.
The SLCoHD has advised that if you are a resident, visitor or employee of Legacy House and you have been in the facility this month, you should seek care from your health-care provider if you are feeling pneumonia- or flu-like symptoms, such as:
- smokers, current or former
- anyone with a chronic lung disease or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, most commonly emphysema or bronchitis)
- anyone with a weakened immune system
- organ-transplant recipients
- anyone on a specific drug protocol, such as corticosteroids
Elliot Olsen has decades of experience representing people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. You can contact him for a free consultation by filling out the following form and submitting it: