SACRAMENTO — Dirty cooling towers were to blame for an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that has sickened dozens of inmates and at least three employees at San Quentin State Prison since late August, according to a report Thursday.
Tests showed two of the towers on the roof of the prison's Central Health Services Building had high concentrations of the bacterium that causes the disease, according to the federal receiver who controls inmate medical care. The report says people walking near the towers evidently inhaled contaminated mist, because no drinking water was affected.
Receiver J. Clark Kelso blamed a buildup of sludge in the cooling tower water pans, as well as a heat wave in the San Francisco Bay Area, for the Legionnaires' disease outbreak that sickened 81 inmates and sent 13 of them to outside hospitals. Twelve employees are still being tested.
The towers have since been cleaned and the 163-year-old prison north of San Francisco is back to normal.
In an interview with KQED, Donald Specter with the Prison Law Office, an advocacy group, says the administration handled the situation well.