Water sampling for Legionella bacteria in Stuttgart almost complete

By Larry Reilly
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

During the past two months, a certified water sampling team from a German laboratory have entered 131 buildings across the Stuttgart Military Community, took a flask of water from a faucet and left.

Back at the lab, this team put the water sample through a series of tests to check for Legionella bacteria.

The team knew that Legionella bacteria is present in all water at any given time, but does the level of any of the 131 samples exceed the GFGS action limit of 100 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters, which would require the team to do a resample. It would also require the garrison Directorate of Public Works to increase the temperature of that building’s hot water and flush out the water systems in an effort to lower the levels of the legionella bacteria.

An even worse case scenario for all involved would be if the level of any of the water samples exceeded the GFGS action limit of 10,000 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters, which would not only require testing another sample, increasing the water temperature and flushing the building’s water systems, it would prevent the residents of that building from using the water for showers and baths as the mist from the shower heads (if breathed in) at that level does pose a health risk although the water is still safe to drink and cook with.

Flask after flask was tested and an occasional ping was registered indicating the Legionella bacteria level of a sample exceeded 100.  Any major pings would signify a sample had exceeded 10,000, indicating someone was going without a shower.

The pings continued throughout the testing of the 131 flasks, but only 12 samples had exceeded 100. And the major pings? No one in Stuttgart will go without a shower because of Legionella bacteria.

“Overall, it is good news that only 12 water samples had a higher level than 100. We raised the hot water temperature and flushed the water systems of each of those buildings,” said Steve Raymond, director, USAG Stuttgart DPW. “Water samples of all 12 buildings will be retested in the near future and hopefully all will show the levels are below 100.”

There may always be Legionella bacteria present in our water, but according to Raymond, measures can be taken to keep the level of the bacteria at a minimum.

“The biggest concern of course is the showers, so running the water at a higher temperature for a couple of minutes before going into the shower, especially if the shower had not been used for more than three days, is a good way to help keep the Legionella bacteria level down,” Raymond said.