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Agency checks water after body found in hotel tank

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm •  Published: February 20, 2013
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — British tourist Michael Baugh and his wife said water had only dribbled out of the taps at the downtown Cecil Hotel for days.

On Tuesday, after showering, brushing their teeth and drinking some of the tap water, they headed down to the lobby and found out why.

The body of a Canadian woman had been discovered at the bottom of one of four cisterns on the roof of the historic hotel near Skid Row. The tanks provide water for hotel taps and would have been used by guests for washing and drinking.

"The moment we found out, we felt a bit sick to the stomach, quite literally, especially having drank the water, we're not well mentally," Michael Baugh, 27, said.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials issued a do-not-drink order Tuesday while its lab analyzes the water, said Terrance Powell, a director coordinating the department's response. The disclosure contradicts a previous police statement that the water had been deemed safe. Results of the testing were expected by Thursday.

Powell said the water was also used for cooking in the hotel; a coffee shop in the hotel would remain closed and has been instructed to sanitize its food equipment before reopening.

"Our biggest concern is going to be fecal contamination because of the body in the water," Powell said. He said the likelihood of contamination is "minimal" given the large amount of water the body was found in, but the department is being extra cautious.

Powell said the hotel hired a water treatment specialist after the department required it to do so to disinfect its plumbing lines.

A call to the hotel was not returned.

The remains of Elisa Lam, 21, were found by a maintenance worker at the 600-room hotel that charges $65 a night after guests complained about the low water pressure.

Police detectives were working to determine if her death was the result of foul play or an accident.

LAPD Sgt. Rudy Lopez called it suspicious and said a coroner's investigation will determine Lam's cause of death.

Before she died, hotel surveillance footage showed Lam inside an elevator pushing buttons and sticking her head out the doors, looking in both directions. She was later found in the water tank.

Lam, of Vancouver, British Columbia, traveled alone to Los Angeles on Jan. 26 and was last seen five days later by workers at the hotel.

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