Faulkner Ridge water called safe

No Legionnaires' outbreak tied to center, report says

Howard At Play

Recreation and local sports in Howard County

April 13, 2005|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

The water supply at Faulkner Ridge Center is unlikely the source of the one confirmed case of Legionnaires' disease at the school system facility in Columbia, according to evaluations released yesterday by an outside firm and the Howard County Health Department.

"Overall, the facility was found to be in good condition, with no health hazards observed or reported," according to a report complied by Building Dynamics LLC, a Reston, Va., company hired by the school system to evaluate Faulkner Ridge. About 75 school employees from student disability, early intervention and international student services work at the center.

The findings by Building Dynamics also supported the conclusions of the county Health Department, which found that there was "no outbreak of Legionnaires' disease associated with the [Faulkner Ridge Center] and that the single confirmed case which presented in October 2004 represents a sporadic case," according to an investigation report prepared by Cynthia M. Lipsitz, the county medical director.

"They don't need to be worried at all," Lipsitz said yesterday. "There is no reason to suspect that the water at Faulkner Ridge is any more of a concern than water in any other system."

The confirmed case involving the bacterium Legionella pneumophila -- whose symptoms of infection include fever, chills and coughs -- occurred in October. Health officials have not found a source of the disease.

A second woman reported respiratory symptoms, but health officials said test results did not point to Legionnaires'.

The two women worked in a section with nine people who develop programs for children with visual impairments. They have since moved to another part of the building.

After suspicions of the second case in February, school officials hired Building Dynamics to evaluate environmental conditions at Faulkner Ridge, including overall air-quality issues because of on-and-off concerns about respiratory problems from staff members there.

Last month, Building Dynamics tested 25 percent of Faulkner Ridge's potable water sites and found most to be positive for another species of the disease, Legionella bozemanii -- which was not the source of the confirmed case.

"Water tests by Building Dynamics did not detect the type of bacteria implicated in this case leading to the conclusion that the water supply did not appear to have caused the illness," according to its report.

As a precaution, the water system at Faulkner Ridge was flushed to remove sediments, injected with high levels of chlorine and flushed again. Samples collected after the treatment in last month were found to be negative for Legionella.

Test results of additional samples collected a week later are expected this month, said Ed Light, president of Building Dynamics.

Light and county health officials say the presence of Legionella is common in water in and outside buildings. Studies of potable water in buildings found that the prevalence of Legionella is 32.7 percent in homes to 73 percent in hospitals, according to Lipsitz's report.

The disease is not contagious and spreads after people breathe mists from a water source contaminated with Legionella, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There has been no confirmed cases of Legionnaires' in Howard County this year. Last year, there were five confirmed cases, including the one at Faulkner Ridge.

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