Albany, NY (September 7, 2016) – Today, an alliance to prevent Legionnaires’ disease testified in front of the New York State Senate and Assembly Committee on Health and Environmental Conservation and urged policymakers to include testing for additional waterborne pathogens when testing the public water supply and distribution systems. During the hearing, the alliance insisted on more robust investigations, in order to properly identify the source of confirmed Legionnaires’ disease cases and other waterborne illnesses, and called for improvement of water quality management in and outside buildings.
“The scope of waterborne pathogens tested in our water supply system must be expanded,” said Daryn Cline, spokesperson for the alliance. “It’s unacceptable for anyone to become seriously ill or die from a bacteria or contaminant existing in his or her drinking water that could have been detected and removed. Steps must be taken to stop pathogens from proliferating by requiring comprehensive testing and treatment of water traveling through our public water distribution systems before it reaches homes and buildings.”
Legionella, for example, is a bacterium that occurs naturally in soil and fresh water environments. While occurring in very small amounts in the water source, the bacteria can flourish in public and building water systems if not properly treated. Biofilm and corrosion in the public and building water systems provide environments for the bacteria to colonize and reproduce. Preventing Legionella bacteria from thriving in aging public water distribution systems will have a dramatic effect on the bacteria’s ability to grow, spread and ultimately infect people.
Water contamination in Hoosick Falls, New York and Flint, Michigan demonstrates the necessity for testing drinking water before it reaches the public. Proven to be as equally important as conducting the tests themselves is ensuring the tests are being carried out correctly; a recent New York Times article pointed out several expert concerns with the way testing for lead in New York City schools has been conducted.
“Our water systems are the common denominator for the transmission of numerous potentially life altering bacteria and contaminants,” Cline added. “It is absolutely essential that more comprehensive testing protocols and guidelines get implemented so we can ensure our public water supply systems are not the cause of future illnesses.”
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently conducted water quality investigations after multiple cases of Legionnaires’ disease were confirmed in two separate apartment buildings in Harlem. Residents at Savoy Park and, most recently, the Rangel Houses have expressed concerns about water quality in their homes as well as adjacent buildings using the same supply and distribution systems.
An alliance to prevent Legionnaires’ disease is a recently formed group comprising public health/medical professionals, building engineers, water treatment professionals and manufacturers of cooling technologies to advocate for comprehensive approaches to limit the growth and spread of Legionella bacteria and other waterborne pathogens. For more information about Legionnaires’ disease or the alliance to prevent Legionnaires’ disease, please visit www.preventlegionnaires.org.