Harvey Hall Convention Center reopens, final test results still pending

NET Health says exact cause of recent outbreak may never be conclusive

Harvey Hall reopens, final test results still pending

TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - They’re still waiting on the final test results, but Harvey Hall was reopened on Monday morning.

“This will be a very safe building,” said Larry Snodgrass, President of ERI Consulting Inc.

Crews with ERI spent much of the weekend flushing the building’s water system out with high levels of chlorine.

“We let it reside and do its work for eight hours and then flush it and verify that the chlorine levels were back to public drinking water standards when we were done," Snodgrass said.

However, Snodgrass says even after flushing, Legionella bacteria will likely still be found in the system.

“It’s in every drinking water system," Snodgrass said. "It’s in creek water, pond water. It’s just naturally occurring. So you’re not going to be able to get it out of everywhere.”

He says the key is eliminating the ways of exposure to the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires’ disease. For instance, devices that create droplets of water that be breathed in.

“Harvey Hall does not have any of those," Snodgrass said. “Those are things such as ornamental water fountains or features, cooling towers, and even showerheads to a certain extent.”

What Harvey Hall did have during the East Texas State Fair in September, was hot tub displays. According to NET Health, eight people were confirmed to have contracted Legionnaire’s disease after visiting the fair. According to the Centers for Disease Control, hot tubs have been linked to other Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks across the country.

“There were a couple of hot tubs present," said Jason Geslois, an epidemiologist with NET Health. "And some of the other things of that nature. The CDC has said those types of devices can make people sick.”

In an interview with KLTV, Gelois said without ever testing the water in the hot tubs, officials may never have conclusive evidence as to how eight people contracted the disease.

“If it had gone on during the events so we could have gone in and sampled water in the hot tubs, or in the displays and things like that, we could have looked for sources that way," Geslois said. "But being that it all occurred after the event and based on the timeline, we won’t know that just from that perspective.”

According to results from the CDC, 11 of the 13 samples collected on Nov. 11 at Harvey Hall came back positive for types of Legionella bacteria. The results show positive samples were collected in places like mop and hand sinks in restrooms and utility closets.

“It’s hard to say specifically how long it had been there, but again this goes back to the importance of how the patient would have become sick," said Geslois. "They get it through some misting or aerosolization of water.”

Both Geslois and Sondgrass said that Legionella bacteria isn’t all that uncommon, and the threat primarily exists when that water is turned into something you can breathe in.

“The key to preventing the spread of those diseases is eliminating those types of devices," Snodgrass said.

Final post-cleaning test results aren’t expected to be back for about two weeks. According to a city spokesperson, water samples collected from at least 54 outlets have been sent to a lab in Houston and a lab in Fayetteville, Arkansas where they will be tested for Legionella. According to the city, some preliminary sample results are expected to be returned Wednesday, Nov. 27.

Long-term plans include water management plans to regularly flush the water system at Harvey Hall and follow-up testing.

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