Water Tank Where Body Was Found Has No Harmful Bacteria: Health Officials

Public health officials did tests on water at the Cecil Hotel after a body was found in a rooftop water tank

Water from tanks in which the body of a Canadian tourist was found atop a downtown Los Angeles hotel does not contain harmful bacteria, health officials said Thursday.

Tests were done at the Cecil Hotel, where 21-year-old Elisa Lam was found dead in a water tank on the roof Tuesday.

The finding of the body disgusted long-term residents and guests of the budget single-room-occupancy hotel.

A do-not-drink order remains in place in the building, which had encountered water pressure problems before Lam's body was discovered, a county health official said.

Between 10 and 14 samples came back negative for fecal coliforms and total coliforms – levels that are examined when a dead animal, for example, is found in the water supply, according to Angelo Bellomo, director of environmental health for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Samples taken from inside tank and within the building all tested negative, Bellomo said.

"It's likely there was sufficient chlorine in the tank to destroy any bacteria that might have otherwise been present," Bellomo said.


Get Los Angeles's latest local news on crime, entertainment, weather, schools, COVID, cost of living and more. Here's your go-to source for today's LA news.

Parents in Long Beach Concerned Over Lack of Air Conditioning in Classrooms During High Temperatures

USC: Small Molecule Drug May Prove Effective in Treating Cancerous Brain Tumor

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power supplies water to the 15-story building, which holds supplies in four 4-foot-by-8-foot tanks on the roof. One of those tanks held Lam's body.

Bellomo said that recent cold weather may have limited bacteria production in the tank.

The hotel was required to provide alternate water sources and develop a plan for draining, flushing and sanitizing the pipes, Bellomo said. The plan has been approved by the Department of Public Health and is being fulfilled now, he said.

Another series of tests will be conducted before health officials will approve the hotel's water supply for drinking, he said.

For now, water in the hotel may only be used for flushing toilets, Bellomo said.

Lam, pictured at right, who was visiting LA from Vancouver, had last been seen Jan. 31 and is the subject of an LAPD homicide investigation.

She had stayed in the hotel and was caught on surveillance video acting strangely in the Cecil's elevator.

Her body was discovered after a maintenance worker went to inspect the water tanks upon low-pressure complaints. An autopsy was completed Thursday, but cororner's officials did not release details.

Contact Us