SPRINGFIELD — Illinois is spending at least $2.3 million to fix a water system linked to a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires disease at its largest veterans nursing home.
A review of contracts awarded in the wake of the incident at the Quincy veterans home shows the state has hired companies to monitor the water supply and design and construct a secondary water treatment facility at the facility.
Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Ryan Yantis said installation of a temporary water treatment system is underway.
"This automatic water treatment site will add additional disinfectant chemicals to the campus-wide water system to improve water quality," Yantis noted. "A permanent water treatment plant will be constructed while the temporary site functions."
The work comes a month after the outbreak killed 12 residents. More than 50 individuals from the nursing home tested positive for the disease, which is transmitted by breathing vapor or mist from contaminated water systems.
No new cases of Legionnaires have been reported since September 11 and no additional deaths have been reported since September 15, Yantis said.
Investigators zeroed in on the water system at the 129-year-old facility as the culprit in the outbreak.
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The facility, home to 400 residents, sits on 210 acres with over 40 buildings. Yantis said the age and size of the campus create "unique challenges" for the agency.
State Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said he is hopeful the response is adequate.
"They serve a pretty vulnerable population," Sullivan said. "It was a serious situation with the deaths. Obviously there is going to be a cost involved in fixing it."
In late September, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin requested a formal investigation into the outbreak by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. An official response has not yet been issued.
"Because the facility receives federal funding, he still feels that the federal agencies should be involved and, as he said in his letter, making sure that the facility is taking the proper steps to provide a high quality of care and prevent future outbreaks," noted Durbin spokeswoman Christina Mulka.
Yantis said no work is currently planned at the state's other veterans homes in Anna, LaSalle and Manteno.
"We will address each home’s needs based on the physical requirement for each facility if a problem is discovered or if capital funds are appropriated," he noted in an email.
But, he said the department is working with other state agencies to use the lessons learned from the Quincy incident at the other homes.
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