The Register-Herald plant on North Kanawha Street will be closed for several days for testing of the building’s environment following the discovery of algae found in two air-conditioning-heating units.
Publisher Frank Wood said the daily would be produced and published at its sister paper’s plant in nearby Bluefield while the tests are conducted and until it can review the results for confirmation the Register-Herald building poses no health risk to employees.
Wood ordered the testing as a precaution because an employee of the paper was recently diagnosed with so-called Legionnaires disease, a form of pneumonia caused by airborne bacteria and not human-to-human contact.
Wood said it is not known where the employee contracted the disease. The employee has been treated by doctors and been approved for return to work. He said no other employee has reported high fever, coughing and other symptoms associated with Legionnaires disease.
Wood said a routine inspection of the Register-Herald’s air-conditioning-heating system turned up algae on the evaporation coils in two of the paper’s five units. He said testing samples were sent to an environmental laboratory for testing.
Wood said the paper also made arrangements for air and other water samples to be taken within the building and tested for quality.
The sample testing requires approximately 7 to 10 days to complete, said Wood.
“We don’t believe there is a problem in the building, but in the best interest of our employees and visitors, we are closing the building as a precaution until we get the test results back,” said Wood. “We don’t want to take chances with the health of anyone.”
The doctors who treated the employee for Legionnaires disease informed the county health department about their prognosis and treatment. Wood said neither the doctors nor the employee could determine the airborne source of the person’s illness.
Wood said no federal, state or local health agency ordered The Register-Herald to close down during the testing. “We decided to do this on our own as the correct way to handle the situation until we are certain the building is safe to occupy,” he said.
He said there are logistical challenges in moving The Register-Herald operation to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph plant, “but we will get the paper produced, printed and distributed every day – that I can assure our readers and advertisers.”