Legionnaires' case prompts testing of fountain at Point State Park
The Allegheny County Health Department is testing Pittsburgh's landmark fountain in Point State Park for waterborne Legionella bacteria because at least one recent visitor came down with Legionnaires' disease, park and county officials told the Tribune-Review on Monday.
The park manager and an independent Legionella expert said it's highly unlikely that water in the fountain caused the illness because the more than 800,000 gallons of recirculated water undergoes chemical treatments and is usually at a temperature not conducive to bacteria growth.
Interim county Health Director Ronald Voorhees said water tests are a standard precaution during investigations into Legionnaires' disease. The elderly and people with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to the disease, a potentially severe form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria inhaled in mist from water systems.
“I don't think it's high-risk at all,” Voorhees said of the park fountain, which closed in 2009 for an $11.9 million restoration project and reopened June 7. “We're just doing our due diligence.”
Voorhees said the health department routinely checks for Legionella in public places that Legionnaires' patients visited before being diagnosed. It wasn't clear on Monday how many locations are undergoing water tests in the investigation, but the bacteria often appear in water supplies.
County health officials collected water samples on Friday at the fountain and should have results in one to two weeks, said Matt Greene, manager of the state-owned park that includes the Fort Pitt blockhouse and museum.
As a precaution, Greene said, park workers began to increase chlorine levels in the fountain on Monday in advance of large crowds expected at The Point this week for the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta, scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday, and the Fourth of July fireworks.
“Basically, that knocks down all the bacteria that may be in there,” Greene said. “It kills everything in there.”
Greene said the water temperature in the fountain is usually in the low 60s.
That's more than 10 degrees cooler than the optimal temperature for Legionella growth in water fountains, said Janet Stout, a microbiologist and director of the Special Pathogens Laboratory, Uptown.
“My concern would not be high” for risk of Legionella in the fountain, she said.
Five patients died from among as many as 21 veterans who contracted Legionnaires' from contaminated water in 2011 and 2012 in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A decorative fountain on the VA's University Drive campus in Oakland was among the fixtures there found to be contaminated with Legionella.
Adam Smeltz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Cheaper gas expected to boost Thanksgiving travel
- Experts who support letting refugees into U.S. say refusal fuels extremism
- North Side stabber sentenced to 20 to 40 years
- Pedestrian critical after being struck by truck in the West End Circle
- Pittsburgh police chief limits chases, orders review of policy
- McCullough’s attorney alleges ‘peculiar’ behavior of judge in withdrawn motion
- Pitcairn cable, Internet rates likely going up $5 each in January
- Swissvale teen on his way to high school shot 5 times, survives
- 14 escape fire in Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood
- VA secretary McDonald predicts sea of change at agency
- Plea deal in the works for McCandless woman accused of drowning 2 young sons in bathtub