Press release from N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Science:
RALEIGH – Following the latest negative test results from environmental sampling at the Davis Event Center at the Western N.C. Ag Center, officials plan to resume renting the facilities for events. The results follow an extensive and voluntary assessment of the buildings and a series of mitigation efforts taken to reassure the public about the safety of the facilities.
“The safety of our guests at the WNC Ag Center is our greatest concern, and we wanted to satisfy ourselves and the public that we had looked at everything possible to minimize the risk to event attendees,” said Dr. Sandy Stewart, assistant commissioner of agricultural services with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We have taken additional steps out of an abundance of caution to ensure the safety of the facility. After our environmental assessment, it has been determined that no structural changes are called for or needed.”
Several efforts were undertaken at the Davis Event Center and the WNC Ag Center. Following is a list of activities and a timeline for these voluntary measures.
The latest test result confirmed on Oct. 30 that no Legionella bacteria was detected in the sample taken from the HVAC system in the Davis Event Center. The sample was sent off to a certified independent lab for testing. The assessment and sample were done on Oct. 22 along with a holistic evaluation of the fairgrounds. This was done under the guidance of an independent industrial hygienist.
Prior to that, the Davis Event Center’s hot water system went through a disinfecting process using a Thermal Eradication (Superheat and Flush) method. These treatments were conducted on Oct. 4 and 7.
This method, which raises the water temperature to more than 140 degrees Fahrenheit, was applied to all water outlets, faucets and shower heads for a minimum of 30 minutes, in order to prevent any potential Legionella colonization at these sites.
After conducting this treatment, an independent environmental group collected new water samples at the same sites in the Davis Event Center previously sampled by public health officials. A certified independent lab confirmed on Oct. 16 that no Legionella bacteria was detected in these follow-up samples.
Additionally, this Superheat-and-Flush method was used on all other buildings on the grounds, again as a precautionary measure. Moreover, the eight drinking fountains in the Davis Event Center received a hyperchlorination treatment.
“Throughout this process we have worked in step with our public health partners, checking for any possible sources of aerosolized water at the WNC Ag Center since that is the way the Legionella bacteria spreads,” said Joe Reardon, assistant commissioner of consumer protection with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Public health officials have indicated there were no other significant sources of aerosolized water at the WNC Ag Center following the fair thereby minimizing the risk of exposure. We decided to voluntarily take additional mitigation efforts to reassure the public about the safety of the facility.”
According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, epidemiologic and environmental findings suggest that exposure to Legionella bacteria most likely occurred from the hot tubs, which are no longer on the grounds. Hot tubs are a well-established source of aerosolized water exposure and have been associated with previous Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks nationally and internationally.
“We have shared our mitigation methods and test results with public health staff and we feel confident in moving forward to resume renting the Davis Event Center for other events effective immediately,” Reardon said.