Building 5681 Safety Assured For Occupants
August 31, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Occupants of building 5681 can breathe easier now.
The precautionary test on employees who exhibited symptoms of pneumonia or respiratory illness were completed and the results were negative for legionella. Samples that were collected from building 5681's cooling tower also tested negative.
"We are confident that there's no connection between legionella and 5681," Rusty Weiger, deputy program executive officer for aviation, said during a press conference Aug. 24. "And PEO Aviation is back to operation as normal."
Independent tests, analysis and assessments were conducted by medical experts from the Southern Regional Medical Command and Winn Army Community Hospital (Fort Stewart, Ga.). Those results also returned negative for legionella.
Redstone officials were informed Aug. 4 that a Program Executive Office for Aviation employee in building 5681 had been diagnosed with pneumonia for several weeks and had his diagnosis revised to Legionnaires disease.
Immediately after finding out the employee's Legionnaires diagnosis, Fox Army Health Center was contacted and conducted testing on 5681's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, a common place for legionella bacteria to reside. Additionally, the entire building was inspected for any conditions that could be conducive to the growth of the legionella bacteria. The test results came back negative, the building was cleared for occupancy, and PEO Aviation resumed normal day-to-day operations.
Several days later it was brought to the command's attention that there were a few employees that had experienced upper respiratory type symptoms. As a precaution, those employees were advised to be tested for Legionnaires immediately to rule that out. All employees' test results came back negative.
"We find nothing to link legionella to the building," Scott Bentley, regional industrial hygienist for the Southern Regional Medical Command, said.
Throughout the investigation PEO Aviation, in partnership with the Garrison and Fox, held town halls with building 5681's more than 500 employees to advise them of the situation, allay fears and allow for questions and answers. Additionally employees were granted liberal leave as a precaution until the test on the building was completed. Fewer than 20 took the optional liberal leave which was subsequently lifted and operations returned to normal within the building.
Maj. (Dr.) Shannon Ellis, chief of preventive medicine at Winn Army Community Hospital, said eight employees got a urine test and all were negative. "There were only two pneumonia cases and they were negative," he said.
Building 5681, the home of PEO Aviation, was built in the mid-1940s and has served as an office facility for a number of years. The building has the normal maintenance issues associated with its age, according to Garrison commander Col. John Hamilton. Ongoing projects over the next months include life-cycle replacement due on some components of the air-conditioning system, and repairing some leaks in the roof.