BONN Contaminated cooling water has been released into the air from the roof of a university building in Wegelerstraße in Bonn. The damage was most probably repaired, but the university could not rule out a danger to the environment.
During a routine, monthly cooling water examination by the Institute for Hygiene and Public Health of the University Hospital, elevated legionella concentrations were detected in an evaporative cooling system on the roof of the Wegelerstraße 6-8 University building. This was announced by the press office of the university on Wednesday. The cause was a defect in the disinfectant solution line leading to the evaporation cooling system of the building.
When the General-Anzeiger asked when the increased concentration had been detected, it was merely stated that preliminary results had been obtained on Monday, 12 August. The results were only formally confirmed this Thursday. However, before receiving the final results, the university had informed the staff, the hospitals, the offices and also the media in order to reach residents and doctors in private practice via the latter.
"It would be important that those who might be affected would even come up with the idea of telling their doctor that they live in the vicinity of Wegelerstraße 6-8 and have possibly inhaled the contaminated water and, conversely, that doctors are also aware of this situation," said Klaus Herkenrath from the university press office. Legionella are bacteria in water that can cause certain clinical problems if the concentrations are too high.
And how do you exactly imagine the spread of evaporation water? According to Herkenrath, the water drops do not fall directly, but fly into the environment. They become smaller and smaller and fall down in the environment and can then be inhaled by passers-by. The contaminated water was spread into the environment by a fan of the evaporative cooling system. The building itself, its rooms and the water supply in the building were not affected.
Due to the long incubation period of up to twelve days for Legionella patients, Professor Martin Exner, Director of the Institute for Hygiene and Health at the University Hospital, explains: "If chest pain, chills or an increase in temperature to over 39 degrees occur, it is essential that the doctor be consulted in order to clarify whether the consequences of Legionella infection have occurred. The illness is very well treatable with specific antibiotics. Potentially affected are older people as well as all those who are permanently in the vicinity of the building in which offices, lecture halls, institutes and the university computer centre of the university are located.
According to Günther Jansen, head of the Department of Infection Protection and Environmental Hygiene, no legionellosis that has a recognisable connection with the contaminated cooling water in Wegelerstraße has so far been reported to the municipal health department.
As an immediate measure, the technical department of the university had carried out a high disinfection, which is why the danger of the legionella spreading with the highest probability has not existed since Monday evening. According to Herkenrath, corresponding control tests are still in progress.
(Original text: Lisa Inhoffen; Translation: Mareike Graepel)