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Cannabis producer apologizes for 2019 outbreak of legionnaires’ disease in Moncton

Legionella bacteria is seen in a petri dish in this undated photo.
Legionella bacteria is seen in a petri dish in this undated photo. Global News

Cannabis producer Organigram has admitted and apologized for its involvement in last year’s legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the Moncton area.

The New Brunswick government declared an outbreak of legionnaires’ disease in August 2019. It ended more than a month later after 16 people became ill from the pneumonia-like disease, 15 of whom were hospitalized.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by bacteria called legionella that can be found in both natural bodies of water, such as ponds, lakes and streams, and in constructed water systems, such as air conditioners, cooling towers, whirlpools, spas and decorative fountains.

In cooling towers, the bacteria can be dispersed into the air and then carried by the wind for kilometres.

Click to play video: 'N.B. public health officials decaled Legionnaires outbreak in Moncton over' N.B. public health officials decaled Legionnaires outbreak in Moncton over
N.B. public health officials decaled Legionnaires outbreak in Moncton over – Sep 12, 2019

In October, health officials confirmed that they were able to conduct tests that confirmed the strain of bacteria found in the affected patients was linked to contaminated water at a single site. But, they repeatedly refused to disclose where it was.

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In a Thursday statement, Organigram admitted its involvement with the outbreak.

The company said it detected high levels of legionella bacteria in its external cooling towers on the roof of its Moncton site.

“Organigram took immediate and comprehensive action to shut down and then flush, clean and treat the affected equipment, effectively resolving the issue,” said the release.

Read more: N.B. ombud says health department concerned about revealing source of legionnaires’ outbreak

The company said it took continuous proactive measures since then to contain levels within “acceptable limits.”

“Previously, consistent with directives in the public interest issued by Public Health, Organigram has not provided any comment,” read the release.

The company said on Thursday it “deeply regrets the impact of this incident on members of our community and their families last year.”

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