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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: April 4, 2023 12:08 PM
From: Senator Ryan P. Aument and Sen. Wayne D. Fontana
To: All Senate members
Subject: Legionnaires Disease Risk Management Legislation
Soon, we plan to reintroduce legislation (SB 1125 of the 2021-2022 Legislative Session) 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.  It 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.
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 building  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.
Our legislation would codify the 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 public health recommendations 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, which would be dependent on the complexity of the water system plan, 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 our legislation will codify is supported not only by national disease prevention and environmental protection agencies, the Veteran’s Administration, and many other industry and professional organizations. 

Legionnaires’ disease is entirely preventable and we encourage you to join us in cosponsoring this important and bipartisan public health legislation to further protect Commonwealth residents and its visitors from this deadly and increasingly common disease.  Sponsors of SB1125 during the 2021-22 legislative session included Senators Pittman. Kane, Hughes, Cappelletti, Martin, Schwank,  Yaw, Costa, Brewster, and Ward.

Introduced as SB571