Legionella bacteria found at Smithtown high schools

Detectable concentrations of legionella bacteria were found in the cooling towers of Smithtown East and West high schools, according to Smithtown Central School District.

The testing was conducted in response to the recent outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Bronx. The state Department of Health had issued emergency regulations requiring the registration, testing, inspection and certification of cooling towers.

The samples were taken from the towers Sept. 14.

According to a letter sent to parents, the test results were received Wednesday, which is when the cooling towers were immediately brought offline and decontaminated by a licensed commercial pesticide applicator. The cooling towers are currently running safely.

Superintendent James Grossane said in the letter that there have been "no reported cases of the disease at either Smithtown East or Smithtown West."

Legionanaires' disease affects the lungs and is especially dangerous for the elderly and people with chronic diseases. Suffolk Health Commissioner James Tomarken says since the bacteria was found in cooling towers, parents and students shouldn't be concerned about contaminated water.

"This is a system that is contained within itself and does not interface with drinking water or water that children would use to wash their hands," Tomarken says.

The superintendent says there have been no reports of students with Legionnaires' disease at any of the schools. Although the bacteria has been cleared, treatment and monitoring will continue.


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