In early July, students living in the Sugar Homes on the Suikerunieterrein had to leave their apartments due to legionella bacteria having been found in the water main.
Translation by Traci White
Several residents of the container units contacted Sikkom about having to unceremoniously leave their homes over the summer so that a clean-up operation could be carried out. Rizoem, the real estate company that operates the housing units, confirms that there was a bacterial outbreak over the summer, but sought to downplay its severity.
“There are varying degrees of Legionnaire’s disease and health risks, and testing revealed that the outbreak was not so bad”, Rizoem spokesperson Robert Kuiper told Sikkom. Legionnaire’s disease is similar to an extreme form of pneumonia and is caused by legionella bacteria. The disease can be deadly, especially for those with weakened immune systems, and the infection spreads through inhaling mist consisting of contaminated water.
According to the American Center for Disease Control, the bacteria is naturally found in fresh water, and can be spread through shower heads, sink faucets, cooling towers, hot tubs, decorative fountains, water features, hot water tanks and large plumbing systems.
In the city of Groningen, development of the bacteria remains rare, but not entirely unheard of. The bacteria was identified multiple times in the water mains at the dentistry school at UMCG in recent years, and Sikkom reports that there have been several deadly incidents in the country in past decades: 31 people died of the disease in 2017 (out of 561 infections), and 32 people died in 1999 after exposure to contaminated water from a fountain in Bovenkarspel in North Holland, which was one of the worst outbreaks anywhere in the world.
Rizoem operates the short stay containers which house primarily foreign students studying at the University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. This outbreak is the latest addition to a list of issues that tenants have faced at the site, ranging from potentially damaging decibel exposure due to construction and heating issues to delayed and untidy delivery last October.