(Oct. 17, 2014) Results came back negative for all six areas of the city’s water supply tested for Legionella, the bacterium that causes Legionnaire’s Disease.
Each site was in the vicinity of 145th Street, the area that tested positive for the disease a few weeks ago.
Officials launched the initial investigation after two visitors who had stayed at the Econo Lodge on the same street contracted Legionnaire’s Disease. It revealed the bacterium, which causes a form of pneumonia when a person inhales water vapor, steam or mist carrying it, in the motel’s water system and in a 145th Street fire hydrant.
“Luckily, all six test samples came back negative,” said Jessica Walters, communications manager for the Town of Ocean City.
The Worcester County Department of Health is taking “safeguard measures” to increase the levels of chlorine, which will flush out the water system, Waters said. “It is important to maintain and follow all guidelines for the highest quality of water.”
There is no definitive answer as to how Legionella entered Ocean City’s water supply. It is present in many water supplies, but becomes harmless after chlorination. The disease multiplies in stagnant water and infrequently flushed pipes.
“I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to say, definitively, what the source [of the contamination] is,” said Debra Stevens, of the Worcester County Health Department.
Ocean City will start its fall hydrant flush Oct. 26 and plans to complete it by Nov. 1.
The flushing will remove sediment from the pipes and is a way to maintain water clarity and quality. Residents and business owners will see a slight discoloration in their water and should run their water until it is clear, though the flushing is not harmful to anyone’s health.
When a physician encounters Legionnaire’s sufferers, there is a protocol followed that includes asking patients where they have travelled or vacationed. If two or more people report having the disease from the same location within a span of two years, an investigation launches.