Cecil Hotel body: Test turns up no bad bacteria in water, but more tests needed

Hotel Cecil

Eric Zassenhaus/KPCC

The Hotel Cecil in downtown Los Angeles, where Canadian tourist Elisa Lam was last seen. On Tuesday, Feb. 19, workers discovered a body in one of four rooftop water tanks.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said Thursday that the water they tested from the hotel tank where a Canadian tourist was found dead this week did not contain any live bacteria associated with human waste.

“The testing we did was only looking for this coliform group of bacteria,” explained Angelo Bellomo, the county’s director of environmental health. “But we really don’t have much information about what occurred on previous days.”

On Tuesday, a maintenance worker discovered the remains of 21-year-old Elisa Lam in the rooftop water tank after guests had complained about lower water pressure.

The department still has to do more testing before folks can drink the water again.

“You don’t always get the results that you expect after you implement the cleaning. In some cases, the cleaning and flushing process could shake loose other things in the system that creates contamination problems of their own,” said Bellomo. “So we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, but if the testing results come back good, then we would be placing the system back into operation.”

Bellomo said they will continue to flush the lines in the tanks and sanitize them for the next couple of days.

In the meantime, folks who opted to stay at the Cecil can only use the water to flush toilets. The hotel is providing water bottles for them while this process is underway.

Coroners also performed an autopsy on Lam’s body Thursday, but the cause of her death won’t be known until the toxicology results come back.

Correction: Several words were dropped from an earlier version of two quotations in this story.

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