STEPS BEING TAKEN TO CLEANSE LEGIONELLA BACTERIA
FROM COOLING SYSTEM AT DEP HEADQUARTERS
No Illnesses Reported
(12/P78) TRENTON - The Department of Environmental Protection today announced that contractors are testing and chemically treating a recently installed cooling tower atop the Department’s 401 East State Street building in Trenton to address traces of the legionella bacteria. The mere presence of the bacteria does not present a health or safety hazard to employees at this time and, in fact, is not uncommon in building cooling systems, according to the state Department of Health.
There have been no reports of illness or symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease, the illness which can develop from infection by a strain of the legionella bacteria.
The presence of the legionella organism in water systems is not necessarily hazardous if addressed appropriately, as is being done at the DEP, in consultation with DOH and other knowledgeable authorities. In fact, standard federal and DOH protocol does not recommend evacuation of health care facilities when the mere presence of legionella is confirmed. The organism only becomes a potential health hazard when it generates strain of bacteria that creates Legionnaire’s disease, a form of pneumonia.
“The DEP is absolutely dedicated to protecting the health and safety of all its employees and our visitors,’’ said Commissioner Bob Martin. “We will work through the weekend as needed to ensure that we are dealing with only a routine issue and nothing more serious.’’
DEP employees were informed of the finding this afternoon. Following normal response protocol, a water treatment contractor is on site today to “shock” the water and administer biocide chemicals. They also are installing a pumping system to continue to administer the biocide for one week to be followed by a thorough draining, flushing and cleaning of the entire cooling tower system.
At this time, the DEP building is expected to open Monday for normal business hours.
Samples are being taken from water in the cooling system to determine the exact strain of legionella bacteria that is present. As a further precaution, samples also are being taken in the ductwork of the 401 East State Street building to determine if there is any presence of legionella bacteria in the air system. Results of testing and sampling should be known within 48 hours.
The DOH is routinely contacted by health care facilities and other entities serving the public hen they have detected the legionella bacteria in their cooling systems. Neither state nor federal protocol calls for the evacuation of public buildings or health care facilities upon the mere finding of legionella organism. Below are links to FAQs from the Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control.