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Contaminated water sources at New York City hospitals

When you consider all that might go wrong to create the perfect storm of premises liability, people typically might think of crumbling building facades, unsafe elevators or cluttered passageways. But they probably wouldn't focus on poorly-maintained water tanks.

Perhaps they should. A recent report by City & State New York detailed the state of rooftop water tanks for many of New York City's hospitals. It was grim.

Don't drink the water

Would you bathe in rusty, discolored water infused by pigeon droppings and rife with bacteria? Moreover, would you drink it? Certainly, no sentient person would knowingly do so.

But what about vulnerable and weak hospital patients who unwittingly have to consume and bathe in these contaminated waters? Patients whose immune systems are already compromised, making them especially susceptible to viral and bacterial infections?

Who is inspecting the tanks?

As it turns out, too few inspections are being carried out on these water tanks. There is also a disconcerting secrecy over the inspection records, which should give both patients and their families pause.

Records indicate that numerous hospitals around the Big Apple have been remiss in their duties to timely file reports of water tank inspections. Many also have played fast and loose with public disclosure laws requiring proof of said inspections.

The investigation revealed that owners and property managers of as many as two-thirds of the New York City buildings with water tanks have not cleaned or maintained the tanks. Those who do file their inspection reports frequently omit any unsanitary conditions noted by the inspectors.

What are the consequences?

It's impossible to note every instance of water-tank contamination that led to patients' worsened conditions or deaths. At least one lawsuit is pending against Hope Lodge, a building owned and operated by the American Cancer Society to provides free accommodations to patients undergoing cancer treatments.

Three years ago, a cancer patient at Memorial Sloan Kettering contracted Legionnaires' disease from contaminated water sources at Hope Lodge. The patient was forced to stop treatment for cancer after the contamination, and succumbed to the disease.

Could contaminated water supplies have caused or contributed to your loved one's death at a NYC hospital? You may be able to pursue civil justice.

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