Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

GRPU, health department provide updates on Legionnaire's outbreak

A group watches a blonde woman present at a podium at the front of a meeting room
Megan Buffington
Trisha Robinson, epidemiologist supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Health, presents at the Grand Rapids Public Utilities community workshop on Legionella at Yanmar Arena on March 1, 2024.

The Minnesota Department of Health and Grand Rapids Public Utilities shared more information about Grand Rapids' Legionnaires' outbreak at a public meeting at Yanmar Arena.

GRAND RAPIDS — Officials from the Minnesota Department of Health and Grand Rapids Public Utilities spoke to concerned citizens about the city’s Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at a meeting Friday, March 1.

At the health department's recommendation, GRPU hired Corona Environmental Consulting to guide the city's response. GRPU and Corona are in the process of gathering additional information to determine next steps.

Legionnaires' is a pneumonia-like illness caused by breathing in water vapor containing Legionella bacteria. While most people exposed have no symptoms, people who do should seek medical attention.

The health department originally identified GRPU as the source of an outbreak last year after two buildings supplied by city water tested positive for a Legionella bacteria with high similarity to patient samples.

According to MDH, all 14 cases of Legionnaires' disease in the city were isolated to an area of central Grand Rapids.

As part of its own investigation, GRPU plans to conduct more comprehensive sampling. More information on how residents can participate in the monitoring will be available in the coming weeks.

The University of Minnesota took samples at five locations throughout Grand Rapids and LaPrairie, which is supplied water by GRPU, in February. The results are expected in two weeks to a month, and GRPU officials said they will share the results once they are available.

Grand Rapids is one of just two Minnesota cities with a population over 10,000 — the other being Brainerd — without a disinfected water system. While both interim and long-term disinfection options are being evaluated, officials said long-term chlorine or chloramine disinfection is the most likely outcome.

Grand Rapids is addressing the Legionnaires' outbreak with the Department of Health collaboration and considering a potential chlorination system installation.

Officials reminded the public that the water is safe to drink and stressed the importance of cleaning and maintaining shower heads, faucets and machines that aerosolize water like humidifiers, hot tubs and saunas. Legionella bacteria thrives in stagnant water, so you should flush fixtures or water systems that haven’t been used in over a week.

Megan Buffington joined the KAXE newsroom in 2024 after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Originally from Pequot Lakes, she is passionate about educating and empowering communities through local reporting.