Rock Co. Health Dept. report finds bacteria in Janesville hotel pool after kids get sick

The preliminary results from the water samples indicate that there was contamination and “ineffective disinfection” when they were used.
Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 10:23 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A traveling softball team says kids got “violently sick” after swimming at the Holiday Inn Express in Janesville. Preliminary test results from Rock County Public Health show it was likely the hot tub and pool that made them sick.

A weekend meant for fun and games on the softball field left one coach playing doctor.

“I have never seen my 14-year-old so violently sick in my entire life. It was horrific,” said Katie Watt.

Watt and her travel sports team stayed the weekend at the Holiday Inn Express in Janesville for a weekend softball tournament earlier this month. She coaches, her daughter plays. When the team wasn’t playing, the kids spent time swimming at the hotel.

“Things seemed to be fine when we were walking in and out of the pool area. The jets were going strong, so it looked like a bunch of bubbles in the hot tub,” remembers Watt.

But when the hot tub jets turned off, it was a different story.

“It looked like pea soup,” says Watt.

At the end of the weekend the team left the hotel to head back home.

“And that’s when the chat started blowing up that one person was sick. We thought maybe a flu bug, but then the next person. Then we put it together that all the people who were sick were the kids who were in the pool,” said Watt.

Matt Wesson is an environmental health supervisor with Rock County Public Health. After reports of the dirty water, his team tested it and found problems.

“In general operators have the responsibility to maintain it in a safe manner,” said Wesson.

The preliminary report shows the pool and hot tub in question were both contaminated and had ineffective disinfection. Bacteria was found in both water samples.

Here are the full report findings from Rock County:

• The preliminary results from the water samples taken from the swimming pool and the whirlpool indicate that there was contamination and ineffective disinfection when they were in use. Both samples tested positive on multiple screening tests for microbial quality (bacteria was present). Identification of specific bacteria found in the water is currently pending further testing. It is important to note that the samples were taken over 24 hours (untreated) after the hotel voluntarily closed the facilities. Therefore, these tests are not completely reflective of the conditions when they were in use.

• The pool facilities are still closed while they are being thoroughly cleaned and updates to their disinfection systems are being implemented.

• Our staff has completed the necessary interviews with those involved in the outbreak

• The preliminary data seems to indicate that the pool area is the likely source of the outbreak, but we are not able to make an official determination or identify the specific pathogen (organism that caused the illness) until the tests and data analysis are completed.

Jessica Turner, Rock County Public Health

“I do not feel there is any excuse, you know, whether your pool facilities are open, whether you have one family there or several. That needs to be a 100-percent a priority,” says Watt.

Watt says her daughter is better now. But the weekend meant for softball wins will forever be remembered in her mind as a hotel pool loss.

We reached out to the Holiday Inn Express Janesville hotel manager on Thursday evening. They were not immediately available for comment. We also reached out last week, and we still haven’t heard back.

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