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Extended water restriction remains at Ellicott City retirement community

A water restriction remains in effect at a new retirement community in Ellicott City.
A water restriction remains in effect at a new retirement community in Ellicott City. (Submitted photo)

A two-week water restriction remains in effect at the Lutheran Village Miller's Grant after three residents were diagnosed with legionnaire's disease, a severe type of pneumonia.

A case of the disease in late May prompted management of the newly opened retirement community in Ellicott City to shut off water in three apartment buildings in mid-June to treat and test the retirement community's water sources. The source of the infection remains unclear, according to Lisa Albin, the director of church and public relations at the Lutheran Village.

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Preliminary results from the county's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene were free from any contaminants, according to Lisa de Hernandez, the spokeswoman for the county's health department. The county is still awaiting other results from the state this week and a water restriction will remain in effect as a precautionary measure, de Hernandez said.

Some scattered samples showed small traces of the bacteria, but the traces were so small they did not pose a health risk, said Albin.

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"We're just in the holding pen waiting on the health department and the results to come in. We've treated the water and we're hoping we'll get good news soon to resume business as normal," said Albin.

The disease is caused by breathing in small drops of water that contain the bacteria legionella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People can be exposed to the disease's bacteria if they breathe in water droplets from contaminated water after the bacteria builds in water systems, hot tubs, water tanks, large plumbing systems, cooling towers and decorative foundations, according to the CDC. Less commonly, the disease can spread through drinking water, according to the CDC. The bacteria thrive in warm water.

Symptoms, which include coughing, shortness of breath, muscle aches, a high fever and headaches, can appear between two to 10 days after exposure to a water resource.

Legionnaire's disease, which can be treated by antibiotics, most adversely affects individuals 50 years or older or people who suffer from chronic lung disease and have weak immune system.

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Residents have been advised to not use showers and sinks in bathrooms or kitchens and to use bottled water for hygiene and cooking. Baths are permissible if the tub is filled and the water sits for 15 minutes, according to a letter sent to residents.

Luther Village Miller's Grant managers do not expect any additional diagnoses because "everyone in the exposure window has been treated," Albin said.

All residents diagnosed with the disease are expected to make a full recovery, Albin said. Several residents are staying at local hotels and others left over the Fourth of July weekend for extended or planned vacations, she said.

The retirement facility officially opened in April after nearly a decade of planning. The project includes 276 residences and other community amenities on 50 acres of former farmland next to the Miller Branch library.

The developer, Carroll Lutheran Village, a Westminster-based retirement community built in 1980, has spent more than $105 million in construction as of April.

This story will be updated.

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