Bacteria found in water heater at King veterans home

KING – Changes are being made at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King after bacteria was found in the water. Officials at the home say no health problems have been reported but they are taking precautions.

MacArthur Hall is home to more than 100 veterans in King. The hot water heater at the building recently tested positive for the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, which is a type of pneumonia.

When asked if there is any health risk for residents Commandant Jim Knight replied, “No.”

Knight says on May 14, the state ran tests on the water at four buildings. The tests were done as part of a plan to install new hot water systems. On June 4, the results came in. The hot water heater at MacArthur Hall tested positive for Legionella.

“Once the results were received we immediately consulted with our medical director,” Knight said. “The medical director said there was no imminent threat to the members who live here or the staff because  Legionnaires’ disease is contracted through the air into the lungs. So it’s not dangerous when it’s in water form.”

Knight says the home immediately took steps to kill the bacteria. The chlorine in the system was doubled. The temperature of the hot water heater was bumped up to 140 degrees. Knight says both measures alone are enough to kill the bacteria.

But as a precaution, showers are no longer being taken at MacArthur Hall because of the possibility of water turning to steam.

Knight says drinking water is safe at the building and the home is doing everything it can to eliminate the bacteria.

“We always take these types of things seriously and address them,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that that one test came back positive but we’re fixing it.”

More tests will be conducted on the water next week. But the results won’t be back for several weeks. In the meantime, the precautionary measures will remain in place.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Legionella is naturally found in water. While most people exposed to the bacteria do not get sick, every year 8,000-18,000 people are hospitalized for it.

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