A water management company has been accused of failure to carry out required tests after several people became ill with Legionnaires’ disease at a New Zealand plant.
Solenis New Zealand is a branch of the Delaware-based water treatment company Solenis. The company was contracted by the multinational dairy company Fonterra to manage water quality at its plant in Pahiatua, New Zealand. After 13 people who worked at or near the plant became ill with Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, an investigation into Solenis’ testing practices was carried out. WorkSafe, the New Zealand government agency that oversees workplace health and safety, has accused Solenis of failure to carry out proper testing.
WorkSafe reports that Solenis waited until after the recommended time period to test samples and did not properly record the time of sampling, meaning that some water samples waited over two days to be tested. They would also test samples in batches of 20, meaning that samples were left waiting until there were enough to process. Furthermore, Solenis waited more than a month between testing water towers, though monthly testing had been agreed upon.
No legal action has been taken in this case—a Legionella expert told WorkSafe that none of these factors were enough to prove a significant effect on testing results. Many of those affected by the disease are disappointed by the government’s failure to prosecute. Despite the company’s efforts, some people who have contracted the disease are still out of work and unsure when they will be able to return. The incident once again highlights the importance of regular and reliable testing for Legionella bacteria and of preventative measures to ensure that Legionella contamination does not end in an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.