The manager of a luxury Japanese hotel apologized on Tuesday for only changing the water in its hot spring baths every six months, causing bacteria to grow more than 3,700 times over the limit.
Local regulations provide for the weekly renewal of the water in which men and women bathe separately, traditionally naked after bathing.
Makoto Yamada, the president of the company that runs the about 160-year-old inn, said the establishment neglected to maintain clean water by not using enough chlorine.
He told a news conference that the official “did not like the smell” of the chemical.
“It was a selfish motive,” Yamada added, describing the failure as “a mistake that completely neglected the health of our customers.”
The slackness began at the Daimaru Besso Inn, where Japan’s Emperor Hirohito stayed, around December 2019.
Since then, the staff of the institution located in Fukuoka (southwest Japan) has become more careless, as the number of customers decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Yamada added.
Even before the scandal made headlines, there were already red flags.
Last year, an examination by the authorities found twice the amount of legionella bacteria allowed in the water of the hostel’s thermal baths.
Mr. Yamada admitted that the establishment then “falsified documents to confirm that the chlorine was properly added”.
It was a subsequent investigation, conducted by health authorities, that made it possible to detect a rate of Legionella 3,700 times higher than the regulatory limit.
The bacteria, which can cause lung infections, has reportedly infected a guest who has stayed at several hotels, including Daimaru Besso.
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