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United Way of Lancaster County


County Prison continues efforts to eliminate legionella

Lancaster County Prison. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Warden Cheryl Steberger

Lancaster County Prison conducted another round of hyper-chlorination this month as it continued efforts to eliminate legionella from the facility, officials said Thursday.

It took place Oct. 5, county spokesman Michael Fitzpatrick said, after a series of 63 tests conducted around the complex on Sept. 22 yielded three positive results.

The treatment encompassed three housing units, Warden Cheryl Steberger said at the county’s monthly Prison Board meeting, held Thursday morning. The prison then conducted more tests and is awaiting those results, she and Fitzpatrick said.

Legionella is the vector that causes Legionnaires’ Disease, a form of pneumonia.

Prison officials learned in August that a state inmate housed briefly at the county facility in July had tested positive for the illness.

The East Orange Street side of the Lancaster County Prison, showing the housing unit towers. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Legionella was found on the sink of the cell the inmate had occupied and six other sites in the prison. That prompted a first round of hyper-chlorination that was completed Sept. 1, LNP reported.

For the follow-up round of treatment, facilities staff let the chlorinated water sit at higher levels and for a longer period of time, Fitzpatrick said.

The legionella bacterium lives in freshwater environments. It is a health risk when it spreads to potable water systems, where it can be difficult to eradicate. People are not sickened by drinking water contaminated with legionella, but by aspirating it into their lungs.

In September, Steberger reported that a Lancaster County inmate had tested positive for legionella but had since recovered. There have been no subsequent cases, the warden said Thursday.

Prison and county facilities officials say they intend to conduct testing regularly going forward. They are working with a York based water engineering firm, Guardian CSC, as well as the consultant CGL.

TranSystems digs in

Steberger noted that TranSystems Corp., the company hired to design the county’s new correctional facility, started its work Oct. 11 with a kickoff meeting with county and prison staff, a prison tour and a public listening session that evening.

Over the next four months, TranSystems is to develop a schematic design and budget estimate. The project will then pause for a thorough review and vetting. Once the schematic is finalized, detailed design and engineering will begin in earnest, and major changes will become significantly more difficult and expensive.

Jonathan Fox and Kent Kroehler, both of the advocacy group Have a Heart, asked about community input into the design process. Kroehler asked about including former inmates: That’s not in the works now, but it’s a reasonable idea, Commissioner Trescot said, suggesting the prison design advisory committee look into it.

Fox said the committee should add more citizen members to the two who now serve: Carrie Kurtz, director of the Lancaster County Reentry Coalition, and Austin Beiler, who lives near the future facility site. That’s not out of the question, but community members already have plenty of ways to offer input, Commissioner Josh Parsons said.

Have a Heart and another advocacy group, Justice & Mercy, have both submitted position papers outlining their vision for the new correctional facility. Both papers have been incorporated into the documentation being provided to TranSystems, Trescot said.