D.C. Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) on Tuesday issued a statement regarding the drinking water emergency at Saint Elizabeths Hospital for the mentally ill in Southeast, noting that both patients and hospital staff have been without drinking water for an extended period:
“This issue was discovered during a routine scheduled water-testing where the hospital is located on the east campus,” Gray said. “Upon discovery, the leadership at St. Elizabeths Hospital was advised by a private inspection contractor to use water for purposes other than drinking until further assessments were completed.”
Gray, Committee on Health chair, has been working with the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health leadership and expects this issue to be completely resolved within the next few days followed by a 48-hour testing period after treatment.
However, the issue of drinking water and bacteria contamination that could lead to Legionnaires’ disease has been confined to the specific parcel where the hospital is located, rather than the entire St. Elizabeths campus, according to DC Water.
“I have been in constant communication with leadership at DBH. According to updates received from DBH, a solution has been implemented to address the bacteria issue as it relates to drinking water at St. Elizabeths Hospital,” said Gray, adding that DBH expects the issue to be resolved completely within seven days, followed by a 48-hour testing period.
Gray also said that DBH has also continued with emergency measures to ensure the safety and hygiene of its 273 patients, including installing portable showers, providing plenty of bottled water, body wipes and hand sanitizers.
“We are receiving daily updates on conditions at the hospital and look forward to receiving a comprehensive report on what triggered this problem and how this can be prevented in the future,” he said.
Gray will address the issue during his Oct. 23 oversight hearing in Ward 7 on the Department of Behavioral Health. The hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. at Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, located at 3000 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.