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Health Officials Look Into Contamination Concerns After Body of Woman Is Found Dead in Hotel Water Tank

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As the results of the autopsy on the body of 21-year-old Canadian tourist Elisa Lam remain pending, so do the results of testing on the water at the Cecil Hotel.

Lam's body was found in one of four rooftop tanks on the Downtown hotel Tuesday. The University of British Columbia student visiting California had been missing since January 31.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health "issued a do-not-drink order while its lab analyzes the water," said Terrance Powell, a director coordinating the department's response, reports the Associated Press, who add: "The disclosure contradicts a previous police statement that the water was deemed safe." Those test results are expected Thursday morning.

Guests and residents of the short- and long-term stay hotel near L.A.'s Skid Row told the media soon after the discover of the body that they felt disgusted at having potentially bathed in and consumed contaminated water.

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One guest staying at the hotel "said water had only dribbled out of the taps at the downtown Cecil Hotel for days." That guest, 27 year old Michael Baugh, told the media: "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."

Water in the hotel was used by guests in bathrooms, but also by the hotel kitchen and coffee shop.

"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.


Elisa Lam (Photo courtesy LAPD)
According to the Los Angeles Police Department, Lam's body was at the bottom of one of the cisterns that was three-quarters full of water. A maintenance worker made the gruesome discovery when numerous hotel guests complained about low water pressure.It is not clear how long Lam's body was in the tank, or how it came to be there. To get the roof would have required passing through locked doors with alarms, then using a ladder to get into the tank.

The LAPD had noted Lam's sudden disappearance as "suspicious" from the outset. She had been in L.A. a few days when she was last seen at the Cecil Hotel where she had been saying. When she stopped communicating with her family back in Vancouver, they became concerned and alerted authorities.

Police recently released disturbing hotel surveillance video showing Lam inside an elevator at the Cecil, pressing all the buttons, hiding, and gesturing wildly--possibly in conversation with someone.

Lam did not ride the elevator, however--it went on to other floors empty. According to a timeline published by CTV News, that footage was taken February 1, the day Lam was to have checked out of the hotel.