Elmira- At approximately 4:00 today [Friday, August 15, 2008], the Chemung County Health Department was notified by the NYS Dept. of Health Wadsworth Laboratory that preliminary results of recent testing of water samples from Flannery Towers indicate the presence of legionella bacteria in the hot water system. Final test results will not be available until next week.
Therefore, as a precaution, a Public Health Advisory has been issued to the residents of Flannery Towers that the use of hot water has been suspended until further notice. As of tonight the management of the Towers has implemented a procedure to flush the water tank and then to super heat the system in an effort to kill the bacterial contamination.
Bottled water will continue to be provided to all residents for drinking and personal hygiene use.
The Elmira Housing Authority is working closely with the County Health Department in an effort to resolve this issue.
Sadly, the outbreak has already led to one death.
Anna Marie Tongate, a resident of Flannery Towers in Elmira, New York, died of complications from Legionnaires’ disease on Thursday, August 14, 2008. Tongate, 75, was a life-long resident of Chemung County and is the mother of three children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Anna Tongate moved to Flannery Towers from Big Flats, New York last March because she had been living alone and wanted to live closer to friends and family while still maintaining her independence.
Anna Tongate and at least three other residents began displaying severe flu-like symptoms last week, yet staff members at Flannery Towers did nothing to address the suspicious illness cluster. As of Saturday, August 16, 2008 six cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been diagnosed in Chemung County over the past week. It is unclear at this time whether all of the victims contracted Legionnaires’ disease at Flannery Towers or elsewhere in the community.
Anna Tongate remained at Flannery Towers until Sunday, August 10, 2008 when family members – recognizing she was seriously ill – rushed her to Arnot Ogden Medical Center’s Emergency Room.
Tongate was diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease on Monday, August 11, 2008. She remained in Arnot Ogden’s Intensive Care Unit until yesterday, when she was transferred to a private room.
Tongate died early this afternoon surrounded by family and friends.
Tongate’s family is upset and demands answers. “My mother lived at Flannery Towers in order to be safe,” said Kathy Lazeski, Tongate’s daughter. “The public deserves to know why this happened.” “Our hearts go out to all the other families in Elmira suffering through this horrible ordeal,” Lazeski said.
We have begun to conduct our own investigation into how Anna Tongate and the other victims came into contact with Legionnaires’ disease, and why no one from the County or at Flannery Towers even recognized a problem existed until nearly a week after several residents began displaying symptoms of the deadly disease.
If you have any information you wish to share about the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Elmira, New York or about legionella in general, please respond to this blog post or contact me at 607/733-8866 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Legionnaires’ disease outbreak is a community concern, and we all need to work together to get the right answers and find the source of the bacteria as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading,
Christina Bruner Sonsire, Esq.