Hospital still without potable water

Small amounts of Legionella bacteria

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Detection of Legionella bacteria in the water at Lady Minto Hospital has prompted the hospital staff to switch to bottled water only until the problem is resolved.

No patients, visitors or staff have been harmed by the bacteria.

Weekly sampling done since the initial detection has shown a drop in the presence of the bacteria after a copper and silver ionization system was put in place on May 10. Island Health facilities maintenance and operations manager Kelly Yerama said that the system should fully eradicate the bacterium within six to eight weeks of when it was put in place.

Legionella bacteria was detected during routing testing of the hospital’s water system in March. The levels present were very low, but Island Health applies a stricter standard against Legionella than public water systems.

Yerama explained in an email that “the levels indicated by test results would have presented a very small risk to the general public. Based on the potential exposure to more vulnerable persons within the facility, it was judged prudent to eliminate activities to eliminate that risk.”

“While the risk for contracting serious illness is low, Island Health has – out of an abundance of caution — taken immediate measures to further reduce the (low) risk. Those measures include providing bottled drinking water for patients and staff, discontinuing the use of all showers pending comprehensive disinfection of the water system and discontinuing the use of drinking water fountains.”

“The pre-existing water filtration system intended to remove sediment and algae could have provided an environment favourable to Legionella growth,” he added. “It was taken out of service immediately as a precautionary measure.”

Lady Minto gets water through the North Salt Spring Waterworks District from St. Mary Lake. Both Yarema and NSSWD manager Ron Stepaniuk said the issue is not related to the new treatment plant, and that they were not concerned about the bacteria being in the general water supply.

Testing at the hospital will continue. Recent tests have shown reduced levels of the bacteria.

“Based on the rate of decrease in test readings, we are hopeful that restrictions will be lifted at the hospital in the very near future,” Yarema said.

For more on this story, see the July 3, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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