Running water outage at DC’s St. Elizabeths enters second week

St. Elizabeths, D.C.’s public psychiatric hospital, hasn’t had running water for a week.

Routine water supply tests conducted at the hospital last month discovered evidence of bacteria in the hospital’s plumbing, including legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, said Barbara J. Bazron, director of the Department of Behavioral Health.

The hospital put emergency protocols into effect Sept. 26, which included shutting off running water.

“We have an extensive supply of bottled water” for drinking, cooking and hand-washing, Bazron said. She added that portable showers are in place and the toilets can still be used.

Patients and staff are using bottled water, wipes, body wash spray and other cleaning supplies to substitute for running water, and the hospital has contracted an outside laundry service.

Bazron emphasized that “no patient and no staff at St. Elizabeths is sick or showing any signs of illness as a result of this finding.”

Bazron also said that patients are still being admitted and that no patients have been moved.

“Things are really moving very smoothly,” she said.

Bazron couldn’t, however, say when the water would be turned back on.

The pipes have to be cleaned and chlorine needs to be applied, and Bazron said the hospital is cooperating with D.C. Water, the D.C. Department of Health and its own contractor.

But, she had no timetable for when the process would be complete.

“D.C. Water is assisting St. Elizabeths and D.C. Health at their request to perform water quality tests, because we have the capacity to assist with this type of testing,” D.C. Water said in a statement. “We can assure customers that this issue is isolated to that facility and that D.C.’s drinking water remains safe.”

WTOP’s Marcus Lustig contributed to this report.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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