RICHMOND -- The recent discovery of a potentially deadly bacteria in the Frank Hagel Federal Building was swiftly isolated and killed and poses no threat to employees or the public, officials said Friday.
Routine monthly sampling revealed that the bacteria, Legionella, which can cause Legionnaires' disease, a severe lung infection, was in the building's water system, specifically in warm water in a bathroom sink, according to Social Security Administration spokeswoman Patricia Raymond.
"Once it was discovered, we immediately conducted a boil-out process to kill the bacteria," Raymond wrote in an email Friday. "Health officials with the Office of Environmental Health and Occupational Safety indicated the low levels found did not pose a health or safety risk to employees, so there have been no evacuations or interruptions."
The recent discovery is not the first time the bacteria has lurked in the seven-story building, which was built in 1975. In 1991, an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the downtown building killed one woman and sickened more than a dozen others.
But the recent discovery, first reported by ABC7-News on Thursday, was not shared outside of the employees who work in the building and remained largely unknown Friday.
"We haven't heard anything about it, so I'm sure there was never any risk to the public," said Amanda Elliott, executive director of the Richmond Main Street Initiative, a downtown improvement group that hosts events on the patio area outside the building.
More than a dozen people sat in the patio area Friday, chatting and eating lunch. No one who wasn't a federal employee had heard about the recent discovery.
Vendors at an outdoor hot dog stand a few paces from the building's entrance also knew nothing about the presence of a dangerous bacteria.
Several Social Security Administration employees interviewed outside the building said an internal memo was shared with all personnel but that they were assured the problem was isolated and posed no risk.
"It was no big deal," said one man, an employee on a cigarette break who declined to give his name.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers.