Area fitness facility taking steps to disinfect water supply after apparent E. coli outbreak

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Jackson-area fitness center dealing with an E. coli outbreak in its on-site water supply has been directed to disinfect its well and add a chlorinator after as many as 14 clients became ill.

The Cape Girardeau County Health Department began investigating after receiving reports of E. coli-type illnesses in late April, director Charlotte Craig said. An investigation of the reports found that all of those reporting symptoms had exercised at or participated in other activities at Class Act Family Fitness, 2336 County Road 307.

In all, 14 cases have been reported, with five confirmed E. coli infections and nine probable infections, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said in a news release. Four people were hospitalized due to their illnesses, the release said.

When contacted, fitness center owner Shawn McNally cooperated with health inspectors, Craig said.

"He has been nothing but cooperative and stellar in this and in contacting his clients," she said.

Class Act opened in 2007 after construction of a 57,000-square-foot facility outside Jackson city limits in two buildings on County Road 307, also known as Old Orchard Road. The private well serving the fitness center is older and was previously used by a home on the property, McNally said.

No public water services are infected.

The well was apparently infected during the heavy rainstorms that hit the area April 27, McNally said. After receiving reports of fitness center clients who had become ill, the Cape Girardeau County Health Department asked to test the water Wednesday and found the contamination, McNally said.

Water from a drinking fountain and a faucet tested positive for bacteria. Additional testing is being done to confirm that it is the same strain that caused the illnesses.

Because tests on the water came back positive, McNally said he has added chlorine to the well daily and is installing a chlorinator to ensure that the water remains potable. Until the water is determined to be safe, McNally has agreed to not provide drinking water for clients.

Publicity about the problems won't help his business, but McNally said it is important to him that the public know he isn't hiding from the issue. In addition, he noted that his family lives at the facility and relies on the well for personal water supplies.

"The safety of the kids is the No. 1 concern," he said. "I, my wife and our four daughters live here and we drink the water every day, so obviously we have to make sure the water is good for ourselves and our family members."

Once he was made aware of the contamination, McNally said, he sent e-mails to the families of all the clients of Class Act and phone calls were made to those without e-mail addresses.

Water sampling is continuing, Craig said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

2336 County Road 307, Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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