Portion of water samples from St. John’s test positive for legionella

Published 7:35 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2019

It’s too soon to tell whether bacteria is still alive or dead


Ten of the 15 to 17 water samples taken from St. John’s Lutheran Community on Fountain Lake tested positive for legionella bacteria, according to initial testing conducted at the facility.

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St. John’s Administrator Scot Spates said the test does not tell if the legionella bacteria is alive or dead or what species of legionella it is.

The samples were taken last week after a resident of The Woodlands, the organization’s skilled nursing facility, tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease.

Legionnaires is a type of bacterial pneumonia that can be severe and is spread by inhaling aerosols from water sources containing legionella bacteria. It is not spread from person to person.

Spates said the samples that tested positive will next be incubated with the Minnesota Department of Health. Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories, a Centers for Disease Control-certified lab for Legionnaires, will also incubate its samples taken from the same sites. Results of that testing are expected to be completed next week.

Spates said in the meantime the same water restrictions will be in place at the facility — and will likely be in place for about a month in total.

Shower filters were expected to arrive Thursday and will be installed so people can use their showers.

He said the nursing home and the assisted living buildings were disinfected Wednesday and the independent living building was expected to be disinfected Thursday. These were the same measures taken last summer when five cases of Legionnaires’ were reported at the facility.

Spates said the disinfection process — described by the CDC as an “aggressive” procedure — involves injecting a chemical into the water system, going to every faucet or spigot serviced by the water main and turning them on until the disinfectant comes out of that faucet.

Once this happens with all of the faucets, they let them sit for four hours and then flush the lines. Lines are retested to make sure the chemical has been flushed out of the system.

Spates said after that, they wait three days, and then Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories will come back to St. John’s and pull water samples from the same sites that tested positive for legionella, along with additional samples.

In addition to this process, he said, the St. John’s Lutheran Community board preliminarily authorized putting in a secondary disinfection system at both water mains at the facility that disinfects water coming into the building.

“We want to make sure we’ve done everything absolutely possible to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Spates said.

He noted they’re talking with their consultant about that system and will need to submit plans for that system to the Minnesota Department of Health for approval before it can be installed.

He anticipated this taking two to three weeks.