TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Tyler Mayor Martin Heines said he is confident in the safety of Harvey Hall. Those comments came as the convention center prepares to host thousands of people for a Tyler Junior League shopping event.
As Mistletoe & Magic vendors started moving in and setting up Tuesday morning, Heines was there stressing just how confident he is in the safety of the building.
“It’s cleaner than it’s ever been,” he said while speaking to reporters following the release of preliminary test results from after the building’s plumbing was flushed last month.
Those results show only dead Legionella bacteria was found in water collected from a couple of kitchen sinks.
"We have gone way beyond any expectation of NET Health and the CDC and aggressively cleaned this building,” Heines said.
The mayor was so confident in the water’s safety that he offered to drink a glass of it. Although it’s worth noting, Legionnaire’s is only contracted by breathing in airborne water droplets.
“Oh, that’s good,” said the mayor, pointing out that it was only during the East Texas State Fair that people contracted Legionnaire’s disease.
“The proof that it was a vendor would be that there was no Legionnaires’ before and no Legionnaires’ after,” Heines said. "The strain was different as reported by the CDC, and now we have aggressively cleaned this building to where there is no issue.”
As for the Tyler Junior League, they’re not anticipating any changes in attendance at this year’s event.
“Absolutely not. Looking at our ticket sales last night, we’ve sold more than we have in the past four years," said Nicole Robbins with the Tyler Junior League.
However, they did say some vendors backed out.
“Unfortunately, they have. But it’s mostly out-of town-vendors that aren’t really familiar with Harvey Hall or how this even normally goes down. So I think it may have been a communication-type situation," said Michelle Boykin with the Tyler Junior League
"Don’t fixate on small, little issues, the bigger issues are that we have gone above and beyond. This building is cleaner than any other building in this community,” Heines said.
The mayor says the building’s hot water system will remain off for now. That decision is being made out of an abundance of caution since Legionella grows best in warm water.
Tyler Mayor Martin Heines said the city has taken the proper measures to ensure Harvey Hall Convention Center is safe from any type of airborne illness.
Heines addressed the media at Harvey Hall Tuesday morning ahead of Mistletoe & Magic, which is organized by Junior League of Tyler and begins Wednesday and ends Saturday.
“It’s a great event to start with,” Heines said, but he added that the type of event had nothing to do with it being the first event to re-open Harvey Hall.
Representatives with the Junior League said some vendors have canceled, though most were from out-of-town.
“We’ve aggressively cleaned this building to where there’s no issue,” Heines said.
The city closed Harvey Hall on Nov. 20 to decontaminate the facility after the CDC detected bacteria in the system, though it was not consistent with the strain that caused Legionnaire’s disease cases in the community.
According to Julie Goodgame, they have updated the policy at Harvey Hall to prohibit the use of fine-misting apparatuses in the building. She said the CDC reports Legionella is transmitted through a fine mist. Cooling towers, showers, decorative fountains, and hot tubs are common places where Legionella is found.
Goodgame reported it was out of an abundance of caution in which they chose to close Harvey Hall while waiting for the test results from the CDC. She said the CDC did tell them it is pretty common to find small amounts of Legionella in water.
Goodgame said the city hopes to be an example and provide an opportunity for NET Health to education business owners and people in the community on what they can do to ensure their buildings are safe from a particular bacteria.
According to NET Health, eight people were confirmed to have contracted Legionnaire’s disease. All eight had visited the East Texas State Fair.