Point State Park Fountain Being Tested for Legionella Bacteria

Jul 2, 2013

About a month after its re-opening, the fountain at Point State Park is being tested by the Allegheny County Department of Health for Legionella.

The move follows a report of one person coming down with Legionnaires' disease after a visit to the fountain. County health officials say it’s unlikely the infection came from the fountain, but they are testing it as a precaution.

“We routinely investigate any public source when we have a case of Legionnaires' disease, and just to be on the safe side and be thorough, we took a sample from there (the fountain) and are having it tested,” said Interim county Health Director Ron Voorhees.

Also as a precaution, park officials will chlorinate the fountain at higher levels this week in preparation for Fourth of July festivities which are expected to attract thousands of visitors to the Point.

“When we treat with chlorine, that generally knocks down all the bacteria that we have in there,” said Point State Park Manager Matt Greene, “and we’re going to treat to above a swimming pool standard. But with our system, the way it works and the amount of surface area and with the water feature, the way it churns, it really dissipates those levels fairly quickly.”

People aren’t allowed in the fountain, but the Legionella bacteria can be inhaled through mist, such as that kicked off by the fountain. Even so, Voorhees reiterated that it’s unlikely the fountain is the source of the patient’s Legionnaires' disease.

“Because it’s cool water and Legionella really grows in warm water, which is why it’s a problem in some building systems, because it’s fairly warm," Voorhees said. "This is cool water; it’s chlorinated regularly.”

Other sites the infected person visited are being tested as well, though Voorhees did not say what those other sites were.

The results of the Point State Park fountain test should come back in the next two weeks.