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The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) notified The Sands Resort at Hampton Beach that additional environmental testing is required before it will be allowed to remove the state’s “public health notice” from the lobby.
The hot tub at The Sands, which tested positive for Legionella bacteria, is considered one of the prime suspects in a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak this summer in which 18 people were infected, 16 of them were hospitalized, and one of them died.
The individuals took ill in an area of Hampton identified as Ashworth Avenue between Island Path and M Street between June 10 and August 26. Thirteen of the 18 people sickened were guests at The Sands.
Legionella is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, the sometimes-deadly, pneumonia-like, respiratory illness.
Not in compliance
The Sands co-owner Tom Saab held a press conference last week stating that test results showed The Sands’ water supply is “completely clear” of Legionella. He also said “there’s no reason” for the state to require the signage to remain posted.
Saab said Resource EHS America was hired to clean the water at the resort, and 43 test results came back negative for Legionella.
The DHHS, however, sent Saab a letter stating those test samples did not meet its testing criteria. According to the letter, the following requirements were not met:
- The samples came in portions of water smaller than the state’s required one liter;
- The samples were collected too soon after the water was cleaned (the state requires samples to be taken at least 24 hours after water is cleaned, and some samples were taken sooner than that).
Dr. John Murphy of Resource EHS America collected the samples, and state officials said Murphy told them he did not plan on conducting additional testing, “contrary to best practice recommended by the CDC and other organizations.” Saab contends that flushing the hot-water system eliminated biofilm.
The state’s letter stated that “Legionella may not grow from water samples collected immediately after remediation, but can grow in the weeks following a cleanup due to the potential for biofilms to form.” The letter also said the hotel is “required to provide a written plan for ongoing Legionella testing, with repeat samples taken at regular intervals, as well as a written water management plan that The Sands will implement.”
Two suspects: One positive, one negative
The hot tubs at The Sands and the Harris Sea Ranch Motel were shut down by order of the DHHS in late August. Both facilities were suspected to be possible sources for the outbreak.
Test results at The Sands returned elevated levels of Legionella in the hot tub, water heater, outdoor shower hose, as well as the sinks and shower heads in three guest rooms. Water samples taken from The Sands hot tub were found to be growing the same strain of Legionella that was isolated from one of the patients diagnosed with Legionnaires, indicating that the hot tub was a source, the DHHS said.
Environmental and water testing results from the Harris Sea Ranch were negative for Legionella, but officials said those results did not rule out the facility as a potential source. Very high levels of chlorination found in the hot tub at the time of sampling may have resulted in the absence of Legionella from the samples.
After the hot tubs were shut down, it was learned by WMUR News 9 that neither The Sands nor the Harris Sea Ranch had registered their hot tubs with the state. Registration is required by officials to ensure that public pools and spas comply with health and safety standards.