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VA inspection scheduled to begin Monday as part of Legionnaires' investigation

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Tests found five people contracted Legionnaires' disease tenatively linked to tainted tap water in the Veterans Affairs hospital in Oakland.

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By Adam Smeltz
Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 7:10 p.m.

The VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System will undergo an inspection starting on Monday as part of the review of a Legionnaires' disease outbreak there, VA spokesman David Cowgill said Friday.

Officials with the Department of Veterans' Affairs Inspector General are running the analysis, expected to conclude by March.

“We've begun our work. We're working diligently,” said Catherine Gromek, a spokeswoman for the inspector general's office.

She declined to share many details, citing the open review.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, urged Inspector General George J. Opfer to dig into the VA outbreak reported in 2012. Tests found five people contracted Legionnaires' tentatively linked to tainted tap water at the University Drive Campus in Oakland. One patient at the VA died, the Allegheny County Health Department reported.

The Oakland hospital cleaned its water-supply system and changed its water-treatment approach.

Casey confirmed Dec. 20 that Opfer's office would take up the cause.

Cowgill has said the VA welcomes the review.

In a related effort, Opfer's office is reviewing about 150 VA medical centers nationwide and how they responded to anti-Legionnaires' recommendations issued by VA leadership in 2007. That work should be done by this summer, Gromek said.

Legionella bacteria cause Legionnaires' disease, a form of pneumonia that can be fatal for people with weak immune systems. Most healthy people exposed to the bacteria do not develop the disease.

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or

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