Second firm says that it warned VA about water

Thisweek,oneofthosecompanies,LiquitechofLombard,Ill.,saiditfirsttoldthePittsburghVAinDecember2011thatthecopper-silverionizationsystemitusedattheUniversityDrivehospitalinOaklandwasnotbeingproperlymaintainedtokillthelegionellabacteriapresentinwatersystems.
Thatwarningwasmadeafterthecompanymadea"courtesyvisit,"saidcompanyspokeswomanKathleenCantillon.
Liquitech"knewtherewereproblemsbecausetheydidabasicinspectionofthesystemandsawthatthecalibrationwasoff,"shesaid.
ThecompanyrepeatedthatwarningagainafteranothervisitthispastApril,andfollowedupwithaproposalinMaytotheVAtohelpitmaintainthesystem,"buttheyneverheardbackfromtheVA,"Ms.Cantillonsaid.
ThePost-Gazettepreviouslyreportedthatanothercompany--Pittsburgh-basedEnrichProductsInc.--wascalledinbytheVAinJunetodoitsownreviewofthesystem.ItfoundproblemswiththesystemasLiquitechdidandmadearecommendationtotheVAamonthlatertohelpitimprovemaintenance.
Enrichdidn'thearbackfromVAuntilOctober--ataboutthetimethehospitalrealizeditmighthaveanoutbreak--whentheVAaskedthecompanytohelpitadjustthesystemtogetthewildlyfluctuatingcopper-silverlevelsinthewatersystembacktooptimallevels.
KeithHill,whoisthenationalvicepresidentfortheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployees,whichrepresentsmorethan800workersinthethreePittsburghVAfacilities,saidknowingthattwocompanieswarnedthePittsburghVA"isatravesty."
"Iftheyknewabouttheproblemsandweretoldaboutitbytwo--notjustone--companiesandtheydidn'tdoanythingaboutit,someoneshouldlosetheirjob,"saidMr.Hill,whoclaimedinapressreleaseWednesdaythattheVAwasinvolvedina"cover-up"overtheoutbreak.
PittsburghVAspokesmanDavidCowgillsaidhehadnocommentaboutMr.Hill'sallegation,ortheinformationfromLiquitechabouttheirrecommendations.
Copper-silverionizationsystemsuseelectrodesattachedtosmallamountsofcopperandsilverthat,whencharged,releaseminuteamountsoftheheavymetalsintothewatersystem.ItisthecombinationofboththecopperandsilverinthewaterthathasbeenproventopreventthespreadofLegionella,thebacteriathatcausesLegionnaires'disease.
LiquitechismakingitspastrecommendationtotheVApublicnowbecauseitbelievestheVAhasunfairly--andunlawfully--attackedthecopper-silversystem,whichitsoldtotheUniversityDrivehospitalin1993,aswellasnewsystemsinbuildingexpansionsin2009and2011.
"Thesesystemsworkeffectivelywhentheyareproperlymaintained,"SteveSchira,Liquitech'sowner,said.
WhenthePittsburghVAfirstannouncedtheoutbreakonNov.16,Mr.Cowgillsaidinapressrelease:"Ourexistingcopper-silverionizationsystem...maynotbeaseffectiveaspreviouslythought,asisthecaseinotherhealthsystemsusingthismethod.Consequently,weareshiftingtoachlorinationsystemtoensurebettercontrol."
ThatstatementangeredMr.Schira,whosaidsinceitsreleasehiscompanyhasfieldedseveralcallsfromclientsandaninsuranceunderwriteraskingLiquitechtoexplainwhycopper-silversystemsshouldstillbeusedorrecommended.
Inresponse,Mr.SchiraonDec.4sentMr.Cowgillanemailrequestingthathe"ceaseanddesistofyourcontinuedfalsestatements,aswellasdemandingapublicretractionofthesefalseandmisleadingstatements."
"IftheOaklandVArefusestowithdrawtheirnumerouspublicaccusations,Liquitechintendstoseeklegalcounseltodeterminewhatactioncanbetakenagainsttheseblatantmisrepresentationsaswellastoconductanevaluationintoanydamagessustainedbyourbusinessasaresultofthepublicationofthisfalseinformation,"Mr.Schirawrote.
Mr.CowgillsaidWednesdayhehadnocommentabouttheceaseanddesistrequest.



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