WEST ORANGE, NJ – In response to heightened concern about healthcare safety at West Orange Town Hall after a township employee contracted Legionnaires’ Disease last month, business administrator John Sayers updated those at Tuesday’s West Orange Township Council (WOTC) meeting on the many proactive steps that have been taken to ensure that this issue is being addressed thoroughly.
Sayers told the council that as soon as the lightly elevated levels of Legionella bacteria were discovered in the municipal building, the township hired Omega Environmental Service Inc. to test water sources in 17 township buildings. The results of this water sampling are due back later in the month, according to Sayers.
He added that five of the 10 samples that were taken at town hall returned with “elevated levels” of the Legionella bacteria. To play it safe, Sayers said that filters were installed in all the public water sources in the building.
Sayers said that the experts he has spoken with feel that it is highly unlikely that the worker, who is now feeling better and is back to work, contracted the illness at West Orange Town Hall. He added that there have been no other incidents over the four-week period since the worker contracted the disease, and experts have told him that there are usually multiple cases in a place if the disease was contracted there.
Since this disease is usually passed along through water sources, Sayers said the township brought in New Jersey American Water to review options to test the water in municipal buildings on an ongoing basis. He said the company recommended flushing the water system twice a year.
During public comment, residents Rosary Morelli and Clare Silvestri both questioned whether there was enough communication with people coming into West Orange Town Hall and having meetings there to advise them of this healthcare situation and how the administration was addressing it.
Sayers said that people have been made aware of this situation, and senior citizens who attended a meeting in the building were given the option to hold it at another venue but declined.
“I feel the township should have been more disclosure-oriented,” said Councilman Joe Krakoviak.
John Gross, chief financial officer, said the experts the township has been working with advised the administration to limit communications on this issue so as not to be overly alarmist.
“We can assure the public that we are testing everywhere to play it safe,” said Gross.