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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: August 13, 2021 03:26 PM
From: Senator Joe Pittman and Sen. Wayne D. Fontana
To: All Senate members
Subject: Legionnaires Disease Risk Management Legislation

Soon, I plan to introduce legislation to address the risk and mitigation of Legionnaires Disease in this Commonwealth.  Legionnaires’ disease is a severe and often deadly pneumonia that has become more prevalent since the first US outbreak in 1976 in Pennsylvania. Recently, Pennsylvania has had 31 outbreaks and nationwide the CDC has documented a 600% increase in cases. Legionnaires’ disease is fatal in 10-33% of cases and those who recover from Legionnaires’ disease can have life-long health problems and medical costs.  People who are at highest risk for Legionnaires’ disease include: people over 50, current/former smokers and individuals with weakened immune systems. This includes the 1.2 million Pennsylvanians who have recovered from COVID-19.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused when a water mist containing Legionella pneumophila bacteria is inhaled. It is not spread person to person. The bacteria are introduced to mist through showers, hot tubs, cooling towers, outdoor irrigation systems, fountains, and other similar devices in poorly managed water systems. These bacteria enter building plumbing systems from the public water supply, then grow in those building water systems that are not well controlled, have been dormant, or inactive in warm, humid, wet weather, thus creating the risk of Legionnaires’ disease. However, Legionnaires’ disease is highly preventable.
My legislation would codify the CDC-supported industry standard (ASHRAE-188), which is a 7-step program to determine where there is risk of bacteria growth in certain building plumbing systems and relatively simple actions building owners can take to mitigate or reduce the risk moving forward.  The legislation, which aligns with both industry consensus and the US CDC on cost-effective best practices to prevent Legionnaires’ disease,  will direct both drinking water providers and building owners to assess their respective water systems, then take common sense steps including but not limited to flushing clean water through the system, keeping hot water hot and cold water cold, and monitoring the system regularly to know whether the water management plan is effective that reduce the risk of deadly bacteria getting into the air and then causing disease.   Finally, the bill will require routine testing of the systems’ water for Legionella pneumophila bacteria to allow building managers to prove their water is low risk for Legionnaires’ disease and to take immediate action if bacteria are found, thus preventing disease before there is an outbreak.
The ASHARE 188 industry standard that my legislation will codify is supported not only by CDC but also the EPA, the Veteran’s Administration, and many other industry and professional organizations. Unlike the coronavirus, we know how to prevent Legionnaires’ disease and I encourage you to join me in cosponsoring this important public health legislation to further protect Commonwealth residents and its visitors from this deadly and increasingly common disease.  If you have any questions, please contact  Anne Achenbach in my office at 7-4404 or at aachenbach@pasen.gov.   

Introduced as SB1125