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From The Mailbag: Aria Legionella Follow Up

By Chuckmonster on Monday, 18th July 2011 12:07pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 10


From time to time, we get emails from y'all that might be better discussed in the family domain... right here on the blog. This first one is from VT Reader Jim who has some questions about ARIA's legionella outbreak, and our reporting thus far. Take it away Jim.

As you "broke" the Aria legionnaire's story plus the fact that you often (rightfully so) outspoken about the lack of good reporting I was surprised you have not come out with a followup on the story. The Press release from Aria about the problem says that they detected elevated of the bacteria on Shower heads & Faucets. The question is how did it get there? Municipal water is treated! So is the city water not treated properly? The only way for it to get in the Potable water system is thru a crossed connection within Aria! One more item to add to the construction issues. Something just does not seem right!!

Jim, you are absolutely correct someone should be following up on this reporting, presumably actual reporters who are trained to do investigations into stuff like this.

The local reportage has been quite thorough on this story, but the majority of their information is coming directly from the mouth of the MGM PR machine (who hasn't put us on their mailing list) and a smattering of experts from the local health department. This release of the legionella information was a planned event by MGM's public affairs department, this wasn't sparked by a wave of customer complaints or internal whistle blowing... they bought a domain name, printed up some handouts, gathered the news media and sent Alan Feldman out to answer a two dozen reporter questions. In the eyes of the common journalist, once the story as been told and column inches filled and filed, it's Miller Time. Is it wrong of us to expect journalists (and this obsessive tourist/blogger who lives one state over) to dig out the actual the truth?

I opine that MGM make the numbers of every test they've done public. Send us the spreadsheet of every faucet, sink, AC duct and shower head in every single room that was tested and let the world see exactly what the results were. THAT would be the true "ARIA response to Legionella."

As has been sussed out in the discussions on this website, Legionella bacteria is present in very small levels in almost all water supplies. Still, it is very disconcerting that throughout ARIA's 18 month lifespan, it has repeatedly tested above acceptable levels.

Could this be caused by the water ARIA is getting from the city? It is well known that there is an underground aquifer beneath the CityCenter/Cosmopolitan construction area, which you can see with your very own eyes leaking into the walls of the Cosmopolitan's parking garage. I recall hearing somewhere that Cosmopolitan gets its water directly from the aquifer using pumps installed during the early construction floods. I do not believe that CityCenter gets its water from the same aquifer.

- - -

Our next letter comes from Norma, who writes:

Is the shuttle leaving from your hotel to the Fashion Square Mall and the airport free? How many times a day does the shuttle go to this locations and how long does it take to get there? Thanks. We already have reservations with you for the Just convention. bye.

We don't have a shuttle from our hotel to Fashion Square Mall. In fact, we don't have a shuttle that goes anywhere. Or a hotel! Perhaps you are confusing us with M Resort?

- - -

Our final letter comes from Dale, who writes:

What is your room rates for Oct 18 to Oct 25, at the Royale Casino

$8, $6, $7, $5, $3, FREE, $9. Add $1 for cheese.

Keep those cards and letters comin!

Tagged: mailbag   


Comments & Discussion:

I get those 'what are your rates' type emails too. Good stuff.

I love it!

But as funny as this is there's lots of very confused people out there.

BTW there's no Fashion Square Mall...

The scary thing is that these letters come from folks who vote and serve on juries.....

I guess it's safe to assume that all Vegas-related sites get these type of emails.

By a wonderful coincidence, I just got the best spam/misdirected email yet.

It came from a man claiming to be "the managing director of ford motor company" [sic].

" I Would Be Coming Into The Country For A Business Meeting And Conference. I Would Love To Get The Quote For A Vehicle(S) For 10 Delegates. This Could Be ANY Of The Following: Limousine, Sedans, Minibus, Vans Or Any Two Cars That Can Carry 4 Or 5 Persons. which Types Of Vehicles can you serve us.
Date: 20th AUG 2011 TO 27TH AUG 2011 Maximum Duration Of Service: 10 Hours Per Day.The Price Should Be Based On A Day. Let Me Have The Quote like this Below:

price per a day
Total Cost For 7 days
which Types Of Credit Cards you Accept?
which Areas Do You Operate?

I Have Contacted An Agent That Would Provide Us With Accommodation. I Will Forward To You Our Hotel Address And Times For The Car Service Within 2 To 3 Days Before Our Arrival. This Is To Enable Me Confirm The Final Itinerary
With My Clients. Our Destination Is Basically From The Airport To The Hotel And Then To The Venue Of The Conference. Please Advise The Areas You Operate?

And he helpfully left a Hotmail account. Because not only would a top executive with Ford arrange transportation himself, he'd do it via Hotmail.

"Still, it is very disconcerting that throughout ARIA's 18 month lifespan, it has repeatedly tested above acceptable levels."

Where was this publicized? I have seen that they have detected the bacteria, but nothing about "acceptable levels" of Legionella over the 18 month period since opening. Only the letter from SNHD that the CDC reports six cases of Legionnaires disease from guests over that period. If there had been something other than "acceptable levels" it would suggest that there should have been remediation action from early on. It seems to me that we know very little.

Testing for this sort of thing is very difficult. Think about how many plumbing surfaces there are in an operation like Aria. Every pipe, every sink, faucet, showerhead, drain, toilet. Legionella forms biofilms in water, and it could make one on any of these surfaces. All it takes is for a good biofilm to form somewhere to make someone sick, and that could be within a room or further upstream. If what Aria says is true there is no reason to implicate an upstream source. Legionella does well where cold water is stored on the warm side, and hot water on the cool side -- perhaps something that might occur in an innovatively engineered water system like Aria's LEED Gold certified system. When have they hit levels that required additional/constant monitoring, following state or federal guidelines? Did the late June/early July time period mentioned by Aria correspond to a spike in Legionella levels and/or a spike in cases among Aria guests? The CDC is notoriously (and for damn good reason) conservative about confirming cases, but this is not Philadelphia 1976 when 34 people died. Again, if we want outfits like Aria to be green and creative about how they handle water and treat it, we need not to panic and to let smart people figure this out.

On the other hand, is Aria failing to disclose information? I have no idea. If they have been monitoring in cooperation with state and federal regulators, then the information gathered can come out eventually whether they want it to or not. Perhaps they have been self-reporting. Perhaps they are concerned about short-term panic and waiting until they have to report. Who knows.

@ignoramus they found traces of it all along but had tested above levels numerous times since opening in december 2009... two particular episodes caused illnesses, 4 total. it would be nice if they gave absolute specifics... room #s, levels found, total number of rooms tested, when tested... but they aren't offering up that information.

After my conversations with both Aria and SNHD the only one that knows the rooms that were infected is SNHD and they are not releasing that information to Aria or myself. The SNHD said it was some type of privacy act that prevented them from telling Aria or myself.

Sounds to me like a simple FOIA request might shed tremendous light on so many details here, but as Chuckmonster rightly points out, the media is content to regurgitate MGM PR releases rather than do any actual investigative reporting.

"Legionella does well where cold water is stored on the warm side, and hot water on the cool side -- perhaps something that might occur in an innovatively engineered water system like Aria's LEED Gold certified system."

I was wondering myself if the energy-saving measures needed to achieve green certification has something to do with creating a hospitable environment for the bug. Sounds like a viable suspect that needs to be ruled out.

Bingo Drake. I think you hit it right on the nose.

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