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No trace of Legionella found in Drackett Tower drinking water

After receiving a notification that a student had been diagnosed with legionella, then shutting off many of Drackett Tower’s water fountains, Ohio State has notified students that no trace of legionella was found in the residence hall’s drinking water or showers.

After more than a month without water in the majority of Drackett Tower water fountains, they are all back to functioning, according to Dave Isaacs, a university spokesman.

Fountains were turned off Aug. 27 after a water line had collapsed and affected the riser, which connects the water fountains from floor to floor,  Issacs told The Lantern in September. The fountains were shut off out of precaution and tested for legionella, a bacteria that causes a severe form of pneumonia. 

Showers and sinks were still functioning, as well as three fountains on the first floor and two in the basement.

Residents said they did not receive any emails from their resident advisors, hall directors or Ohio State representatives explaining that their water would be turned off or the reasoning behind it.

In the Friday email, students were told the university worked with the Wexner Medical Center, Columbus Public Health, Ohio Department of Health, a national legionella consultant and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test the resident hall water.

Lead auditor Tim Keane was brought in by Ohio State Sept. 21, 12 days after the reported case and the Columbus health department analyzed samples from Drackett Tower collected Sept. 15.

The health department estimates the student was exposed to legionella between Aug. 31 and Sept. 7.

Keane said it is “not likely that the student was exposed to aerosol with sufficient concentrations of Legionella to cause illness,” according to the audit.

In response to the student contracting legionella, the university worked with the Columbus Health Department as well as hired an independent auditor to inspect Drackett Tower’s water systems.

The audit said there was no risk of legionella growth in the residence hall, but did “identify areas for improved control,” the investigation report stated. The areas specified for improvement have since been addressed, according to the report.

The university was then disinfected its cooling tower water after the health department’s lab analysis found that the concentration of colony forming units per milliliter did not meet the newly implemented stricter standard. 

In addition, the university completed a low level disinfection of the hot water system when trace amounts of legionella were found, although the health department did not recommend such action take place.

No traces of legionella were found in the cold potable water, according to the report.

Ohio State  said it would again be testing the different water systems at Drackett tower two weeks after each disinfection.

“Multiple cases of Legionnaires’ disease are typically associated with large aerosol generators such as cooling towers … If a pathogenic strain of Legionella was transmitted to a densely populated area in sufficient concentrations through cooling tower aerosol, it would typically cause more than one case of illness,” the report stated.

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