Testimony began this week in the Disneyland Resort‘s appeal to the $33,000 fine that was levied by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA) related to bacteria inspections of cooling towers located behind the New Orleans Square train station that allegedly were the source of a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak that affected 22 people last year.
Orange County Health Care Agency medical director for epidemiology Dr Matthew Zahn testified that cooling towers, such as the ones at Disneyland Park, are typically the most common source of outbreaks. When tested, tower#4 at Disneyland showed high levels of Legionella bacteria.
Zahn said, “Most likely those cases were related to a common exposure. Cooling tower #4 was the most likely source of exposure.”
He added that once tower #4 was sanitized, new infections appeared to stop.
Three of the people that were infected had not visited Disneyland, but were nursing home patients. Zahn said that Disneyland could have been the source of their illness as well since the droplets from the cooling towers “can spread two to four miles.”
There were no likely sources of the bacteria in the nursing homes when health workers visited.
Zahn did say, when cross-examined by lawyers for Disney, that he couldn’t be certain that the towers at Disneyland were the source without more testing. Cal-OSHA never formally identified a cause for the Legionnaires’ outbreak.
Christopher Casteel, an associate safety engineer with Cal-OSHA’s Department of Industrial Relations, testified that Disneyland didn’t following proper procedures for disinfecting the cooling towers, allowing the bacteria to grow and spread. Casteel was part of the investigation into Disneyland’s violations.
Administrative law judge Christopher Merrill is expected to rule on Disneyland’s appeal within 60 days.
In a somewhat related lawsuit, the family of a young girl who developed Legionnaires’ is suing Disneyland, however her visit to the theme park falls outside of the dates of the larger outbreak.
Disneyland spokesperson Suzi Brown said in a statement, “the facts don’t support these claims and the lawsuit has no merit.”
Source: Los Angeles Times