LEWISTON, N.Y. (WIVB) — Legionella, a bacteria that can cause moderate to severe illness, was detected in the water system of a building near the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, Niagara County officials said in a statement.

However, the Niagara County Department of Health believes the situation is under control and poses no public health danger.

The situation arose when officials with the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission determined through testing that Legionella was detected at the bridge, according to the statement. The sampling was initiated after an employee who works at the facility reportedly contracted Legionellosis. Protocols were then initiated by the NCDOH and NYSDOH to achieve the necessary corrective actions.

As part of the precautionary measures, certain water systems at the facility were shut down and temporary facilities for drinking water were provided, according to the Bridge Commission.

“The health and wellness of our employees, officers, and public are of the utmost importance to the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and we will continue to follow the guidance of public
health officials,” a statement from the Bridge Commission said.

The NCDOH reviewed cooling tower facilities near the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge and “determined that all are compliant with sampling and reporting requirements for New York State bacterial monitoring regulations for Legionella.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to Legionella bacteria can cause moderate to severe illness, including a serious lung infection called Legionnaires’ disease. It can also cause a less serious illness called Pontiac fever, which produces flu-like symptoms.

The NCDOH provided the following information about Legionella and Legionellosis:

  • Legionellosis is caused by infection with Legionella bacteria. Legionella occurs naturally in freshwater environments, like lakes and streams.  Additional sources of the bacteria may be found in man-made water sources such as cooling towers, water tanks, large plumbing systems, fountains, hot tubs and spas that are not properly maintained.   
  • Legionella is typically transmitted by breathing in aerosolized water contaminated with the bacteria, not by drinking the water. Public water systems are usually not the source of Legionella outbreaks.  
  • Legionellosis is not considered a communicable disease and is not transmitted from person to person. 
  • Most healthy individuals do not get sick after inhaling the bacteria. People at highest risk for Legionellosis have a history of chronic disease, smoking, chronic lung disease, cancer or weakened immune systems. 

You can learn more information here.

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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.

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