Guests at the historic Cecil Hotel in downtown LA had been complaining about low water pressure in their rooms. Eventually the cause was discovered---a body was at the bottom of the water cisterns, blocking water flow.
On Tuesday, a hotel maintenance worker discovered the body of 21-year old Elisa Lam inside a tank that helps provide water for the hotel after guests, according to CNN, complained that the water also "tasted funny" and had a "black color" when you first turned the tap on. The Canadian woman had been reported by missing by her parents a week ago. She was apparently staying at the $65-a-night hotel located near Skid Row, but hadn't been seen since the last week of January.
The hotel's cistern tanks supply water for room bathrooms, and are a washing and drinking outlet. The water is also used for cooking in the hotel--therefore the coffee shop has been shut down and is also under orders to sanitize its equipments before it reopens.
When the body was discovered, the hotel relocated guests of 27 rooms to another hotel, and for the others that chose to remain, the hotel made those guests sign a waiver that they acknowledged being informed of the health risks and were provided bottled water.
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's Terrance Powell, a director coordinating the department's response, said "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 cautious.
Powell also said the hotel hired a water treatment specialist after the department required it to do so to disinfect its plumbing.
The agency expects to release results of tests ran on the water tomorrow and the LAPD will investigate to determine if Lam's death was a result of foul play. Sgt. Rudy Lopez has already called the incident "suspicious". The four cisterns are on a platform nearly 10 feet above the roof and to access the tanks, one would have to go to the hotel's top floor, then take a staircase with a locked door and emergency alarm that prevents roof access.
To get to the tanks, someone would have to go to the top floor then take a staircase with a locked door and emergency alarm preventing roof access. Therefore, another ladder would have had to be used to the platform and someone would have to climb inside the tank. Unfortunately there are no security cameras on the roof of the 1920s-built hotel whose previous guests have included "Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez, now on California's death row.
The owners of the hotel have not yet commented on the incident.