JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
The Liberty Barracks at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston is ready to reopen following extensive remediation after the discovery of legionella traces in the water system last year.
Legionella is common and naturally found in freshwater environments but can become a health concern when they grow and spread in man-made water systems such as showerheads, cooling towers, hot water tanks and hot tubs.
Around 150 residents and staff members were evacuated during the process and have now received the all-clear to return to the facility, marking a significant milestone in the efforts to ensure the safety of service members.
The building was subject to a rigorous restoration process, with updates made to the water system, the implementation of a super-chlorination process, and the installation of a digital reader for real-time monitoring of the building’s water storage tank.
“The health and well-being of our service members is always our top priority,” said Brig. Gen. Russell Driggers, Joint Base San Antonio and 502nd Air Base Wing commander. “And the routine water testing program worked as intended – we identified an issue and corrected it.
“With remediation complete, our team will continue to work with Brooke Army Medical Center to ensure the safety and health of all service members there,” Driggers said.
Remediation efforts included extensive updates to the building’s water system and the entire system was treated multiple times through super-chlorination, said Jordan Martin, mechanical engineer, 502nd Civil Engineer Group.
“For super-chlorination, we achieved at least 200 parts per million of chlorine in water, which typically kills all bacteria,” Martin said. “We also replaced water softeners and changed out water fixtures, faucets, and showerheads, throughout the building.”
In addition, Martin said the digital reader will provide real-time readouts and ensure appropriate and stable temperatures.
“All of these actions are going to help us detect any changes in the building’s water system, which will allow us to act quickly and proactively,” Martin said.
Once all water system enhancements and repairs were completed, testing was accomplished to ensure the building was safe to occupy.
“Engineers have worked with Public Health personnel to reassess the building’s safety. They have extensively tested water samples for legionella bacteria and residual chlorine and have approved the building for occupants to return,” Martin said.
To help prevent future occurrences, officials have implemented an extensive water management plan to ensure the continual movement of water through the system and will conduct ongoing routine testing and preventive maintenance to ensure the facility remains safe for all service members and staff.
“Liberty Barracks has undergone extensive public health mitigation resulting in safe, high-quality living conditions for all service members and personnel moving back into the building,” said Army Lt. Col. Michael Walkingstick, deputy chief of the Department of Public Health, Brooke Army Medical Center. “Safety is our top priority, and we are fully confident the building is ready for occupancy.”
Liberty Barracks originally opened in 2012, with 216,000 sq. ft., and is capable of housing 360 personnel, most of which are temporary residents undergoing medical treatment at BAMC.
Legionella is bacteria that frequently live in plumbing and water sources and can cause symptoms ranging from a mild case of the flu to a type of pneumonia called Legionnaires' disease. The bacteria are transmitted by breathing in mist or vapor, small droplets of water in the air, which contain the bacteria. For more information on legionella, visit https://www.cdc.gov/legionella/index.html.