TAYLORSVILLE — An assisted living facility in Taylorsville implemented a no tap water policy after two of its residents contracted Legionnaires' disease.
“The last month has been … very unsettling,” said Norma Soderborg Harris, a resident at Legacy House of Taylorsville.
On Thursday, signs hanging in rooms, bathrooms and above drinking fountains warned residents not to use the water. For more than a week the staff has provided water bottles for drinking, washing and bathing.
“We can’t shower,” Harris said. “We can’t do anything that uses water.”
The Salt Lake County Health Department retested the facility's water Friday and recommended it continue to use bottled water. Final test results are expected next week.
However, efforts to remediate the bacteria have progressed enough for residents to start using designated shower rooms that have Legionella filters, said Nathan Cluff, the center's executive director.
"We have showering residents again today safely and we'll be calling in some extra staff to help us catch up on our shower schedule," he said Friday.
Cluff said he has appreciated residents' patience.
"This is their home," he said. "This is where they live."
In early April, one of Legacy House's 80 residents contracted Legionnaires' disease. Last Tuesday, the Salt Lake County Health Department notified Cluff that a second resident had the disease and advised the facility to stop all use of tap water.
The disease comes from the bacterium Legionella, which is found in water but can only spread by breathing in mist that’s contaminated with the bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and fever.
“It basically shuts down your lungs so you can’t breathe,” said Steve Madsen, owner of Legionella Specialties. Legacy House hired the company last week to eradicate the Legionella bacterium.
“We’re looking for spots where the water would be turned into aerosol, like a shower head, a fountain, a hot tub. It can even be a drinking fountain or a sink in a room,” Madsen said.
Seven other residents have been tested for the disease, but the results have come back negative.
“Out of an abundance of precaution we’re going to implement these water restrictions just to make sure we keep people safe until the problem’s been remediated,” Cluff said.
Until then, it’s an inconvenience that Harris is willing to live with.
“Hope it’s over with soon,” said Harris, who has warmed up water bottles in the microwave in order to take a shower.Comment on this story
“I can’t say it’s been happy experiences, but it’s been a learning experience,” she said. “They’ve done everything they can to help us to do it.”
Health officials say the case at Legacy House is not unusual for those types of facilities. There were 17 reports of the bacteria found in Salt Lake County in 2018. The county health department receives about 25 incident reports of legionella each year.
Madsen says he expected the center to be completely disinfected by Friday.
Contributing: Dennis Romboy