UPDATE: In an article printed in the Tyler Morning Telegraph in Sunday's edition, the reporter incorrectly stated that an inadequate water system in Harvey Convention Center allowed the buildup of the bacteria that caused an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.
The newspaper reported correctly on Saturday that the outbreak was not caused by the water system at Harvey Hall.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta confirmed to the newspaper in an article on Saturday, Harvey Hall’s water system was not the cause of the recent Legionnaires outbreak. We stand by this reporting and not the error in Sunday's edition.
Both NET Health and the CDC have declared Harvey Hall safe to the public and have expressed their confidence in the city’s ongoing maintenance plan for the facility.
PREVIOUS: TYLER — An inadequate water system in Harvey Convention Center allowed the buildup of bacteria that caused an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, according to the report of a city consultant.
On Friday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that water samples from plumbing in the city’s events center had Legionella bacteria.
Eight people became sick with confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease after breathing in mist contaminated with the bacteria while inside the center during the East Texas State Fair, which ran from Sept. 20 to 29. One died from related health complications.
Last week the city closed Harvey and announced Friday it was quickly moving forward with its “short-term remediation plan, followed by a long-term ongoing management plan.”
The city hired ERI Consulting to oversee flushing and disinfecting the center’s water system and help come up with a long-term plan to make sure the water doesn’t become contaminated with the bacteria again.
In making recommendations to the city, Larry Snodgrass, president of ERI, identified existing problems.
The completion of a systemwide, eight-hour disinfection procedure that ended early Saturday morning is expected to “significantly reduce the amount and number of Legionella bacteria colonies and biofilm in the system,” Snograss said in the report.
“We believe, given the lack of (mist generating) aerosolizing equipment in Harvey Hall, that after disinfection, the building environment will be demonstrably safe,” the report continues.
By Wednesday, ERI expects to have the first results of water samples taken from Harvey after the disinfection. The samples are being tested for Legionella by labs in Houston and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The results could lead the city to reopen the hall, City Manager Ed Broussard said.
Until long-term water system improvements are completed, ERI is recommending the city either keep the hot water off inside the hall or implement a “periodic system of flushing/volume control plan.”
These steps “will control Legionella bacteria growth,” the report said.
“Finally, when the permanent plumbing improvements are installed, the conditions in which Legionella bacteria can flourish will not exist,” concluded ERI’s report.
Broussard said the city is committed to doing what it takes to get rid of Legionella bacteria.
“If any facility presents a danger, we are going to move mountains to make sure that gets taken care of,” he said. “We take that very seriously, and will do anything we have to do.”
However, questions remain.
The city manager said Friday he did not know how much the initial disinfecting of Harvey’s plumbing system and testing water samples would cost. He said the money would come from the city’s Hotel and Motel Occupancy Tax, which is used to create and maintain facilities that promote tourism and attract visitors.
It is also not clear how much it could cost the city to make the long-term plumbing system changes outlined in ERI’s recommendations.
The city earlier this year announced that Harvey would be torn down within two or three years and replaced with a new special events center nearby.
Harvey currently is booked up, including for use as a fair exhibit building, for the next few years.