Following the Grand Rapids Legionnaires’ outbreak, the state has issued an update.
The Department of Health declared on Monday that they had located the source and that the information indicates certain parts of the city’s water infrastructure.
Since April 2023, 14 instances of Legionnaires’ illness have been confirmed. There were eleven hospitalisations but no fatalities.
The state describes Legionnaires’ disease as a dangerous kind of pneumonia, or lung infection, brought on by breathing in Legionella bacteria, which are present in water.
Homes and other structures in the vicinity of Golf Course Road/SE 10th Street, south of NE/NW 8th Street, east of 11th Avenue SW/10th Avenue NW, and west of 7th Avenue SE/8th Avenue NE have been found to be physically concentrated with likely case exposures.
“We are working in partnership with the local water utility to determine the best way to address the situation,”stated Tom Hogan, the Environmental Health Division’s head at MDH.“Additional water sampling is planned, and the results will be analyzed and used to inform additional actions and communication.”
Legionella is a common microorganism that can be found in low numbers in any public water system, both in natural and artificial aquatic environments. Water-using pipelines and devices are breeding grounds for Legionella bacteria. It thrives under conditions when the water is stagnant (not moving), between 70°F and 120°F, or when there is insufficient use of chemicals for water treatment, like chlorine.
One of the few community water systems in Minnesota that does not chlorinate its water is Grand Rapids Public Utilities. This is so because adding disinfectants is not necessary for some systems that get their water from groundwater sources, including community wells.
“Our immediate focus is developing the provisional plan to flush and disinfect areas of our water system, aiming to reduce the risk of Legionella. Installing a chlorination system is being looked into, but introducing chlorination to a previously unchlorinated system is a complex process, so our approach needs to be methodical to ensure we avoid any additional health, safety or distribution system complications,” said Julie Kennedy, Grand Rapids Public Utilities general manager. “We will be providing local updates and customer notices as that plan develops along with continuing to work with MDH and a team of experts to conduct a thorough assessment of our water distribution system to determine the best long-term solution.”
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