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The water system at Harvey Convention Center will be flushed again on Wednesday before the Mistletoe and Magic event. Testing of water taken earlier indicated that there is no danger at the facility after an earlier outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.

Harvey Convention Center is free of Legionella bacteria after plumbing remediation was performed last week, according to the city of Tyler.

The city also is set to flush the system again before Mistletoe and Magic is held there later this week.

Phigenics Analytical Services Laboratory in Fayetteville, Arkansas, released a preliminary testing report dated Sunday, Nov. 24, showing no Legionella bacteria was found in water samples taken from Harvey Convention Center, according to a news release from the city.

The report, which was returned Wednesday, indicates Legionella bacteria was not detected in four potable water sources at Harvey. However, dead Legionella bacteria was found in water collected from two kitchen sinks in the building, according to the test results. City offices were closed Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The report indicates the amount of dead bacteria found in the two sinks was below the concentration deemed dangerous by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

East Texas Water Quality, under the oversight of ERI Consulting Inc., a Tyler environmental engineering firm hired by the city, manually disinfected the water fixtures at Harvey on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

To date, ERI has flushed Harvey’s water system, conducted a vigorous disinfection of the system, and disinfected all of the water fixtures.

“We got good results on Wednesday,” said Larry Snodgrass, president, ERI Consulting. “We flushed the system, disinfected the system and the fixtures, and we are controlling the hot water in the building by turning it off.”

Snodgrass also said ERI plans to flush the water system at Harvey Convention Center again on Wednesday before the Mistletoe and Magic event that begins the next day.

The city is waiting on more test results from samples that needed to be cultured for two weeks. Those results should be returned in about a week.

The city said previously in an interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph that Legionella bacteria tested by the Centers for Disease Control were not the same strain as that which infected eight people during the East Texas State Fair in September.

City officials also said they made the decision to close Harvey and move forward with remediation as soon as the Northeast Texas Health District informed them it was an option.

According to the CDC, Legionella is a common bacteria occurring naturally in freshwater and man-made environments.

People can contract Legionnaires’ disease when they either breathe in mist or accidentally swallow water containing the Legionella bacteria into the lungs.

NET Health has yet to point to a definitive source of the strain that left one person dead. NET Health said that by turning off the hot water system and barring devices that aerosolize/vaporize water, the city has eliminated possible pathways to exposure.

Devices that aerosolize water include hot tubs, decorative fountains and shower heads.

Air conditioning cooling towers can also allow the bacteria to incubate, but Harvey Convention Center’s air conditioning system does not have them.

NET Health officials previously said only hot tubs and decorative fountains could have been present during the fair, and because there was no risk of another similar display with subsequent events, the facility had been deemed safe for use.

NET Health CEO George Roberts said the CDC informed them that this outbreak, which pointed to a high likelihood of hot tubs being a possible source, and a similar one two weeks prior in North Carolina were the first instances the department had seen of such displays suspected in causing outbreaks.

Roberts said the CDC recently issued nationwide guidelines on hot tub display safety after the outbreaks in Tyler and North Carolina.

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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