Hundreds of Co-op City residents met with Health Department officials on Tuesday to discuss a potential outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease thought to be caused by a contaminated cooling tower in the Bronx complex. A dozen cases of the potentially deadly form of pneumonia have been reported in the co-op community since December, causing concern among the housing developments’ many tenants.

Legionnaires' disease

After 11 confirmed Legionnaires’ cases were reported in December, the Health Department issued a warning about a spike in the disease. The 12th case was reported this month and eight of the 12 residents who have been diagnosed with the disease live in the same Baychester housing block.

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It’s been reported that the co-op water tower in question has already tested positive for the Legionella bacteria that causes the illness. However, the Health Department has called for more testing before they can officially link the outbreak to the cooling tower. According to officials, the infected water found in the tower is solely used to cool the co-op’s heating and electrical systems, insisting that the tower’s stored drinking water is self-contained and safe to use for drinking, cooking and bathing.

Co-op City board attorney Jeffrey Buss drank some of the tower’s water at the meeting in an attempt to reassure local residents. “There is legionella in the cooling tower. It’s not in the drinking water here,” he said.

The company that manages Co-op City,  RiverBay Corporation, says that the community water towers are regularly tested and treated and the most recent test in August 2014 showed no signs of Legionella bacteria. However, the suspect tower has already been shut down and is in the midst of a thorough disinfection process. The Health Department will continue to run more tests in the meantime.

Via NBC New York