Illinois Passes Bill to Better Protect Seniors and At-Risk Residents from Waterborne Health Risks

SPRINGFIELD, IL / April 20, 2022 – The Illinois General Assembly recently enacted new legislation requiring water utilities to notify healthcare and senior living facilities of water supply disruptions that could lead to water quality and microbial risks, such as legionella and other pathogens.

“With the passage of this legislation, Illinois is building on its leadership efforts to proactively manage water supply quality by ensuring closer coordination between water utilities and facilities with the most vulnerable residents and visitors,” said Brad Considine, the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease Director of Strategic Initiatives.

While water systems are generally well-managed, disruptions caused by water main breaks, flooding, construction, changes in water treatment, pressure and flow changes can dislodge biofilm in the distribution systems and release bacteria and contaminants downstream to high-risk populations.

Notifications from water utilities of disruptions as required under HB 4988 helps healthcare facilities to manage the water they receive and protect their occupants from waterborne bacteria such as legionella and other contaminants.

“House Bill 4988 is designed to help proactively mitigate risks associated with water disruptions,” State Representative Natalie Manley (D-Romeoville) said. “The bill does not require specific testing but simply requires water utilities to warn senior care facilities when disruptions occur so the caretakers can take appropriate steps to protect their residents and patients.”

State Representative Manley and State Senator Meg Loughran Cappel (D-Plainfield) sponsored House Bill 4988 to better protect seniors, the immunocompromised and people suffering comorbidities who are susceptible to waterborne pathogens. Working in collaboration with the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease, water utilities and healthcare facility operators, the sponsors were able to develop the legislation, with all parties recognizing the benefits of enhanced communications to protect the most vulnerable populations.

“It’s the kind of targeted, common-sense legislation that I believe Illinoisans expect from their elected representatives,” Cappel said. “It recognizes that our water supply, healthcare facilities, and residences are all part of one water system that must be managed as a system.”

In 2018, Illinois implemented sweeping new water management guidelines for water utilities to ensure high water quality and better prevent waterborne illness issues. In addition, most healthcare facilities are required by the Joint Commission that approves accreditation and the federal government to have water management plans in place to control legionella risks.

“Illinois has made great strides in proactive water management in recent years,” Considine said. “The upgraded water management guidelines implemented a few years ago along with these notification requirements are a model for states across the nation. Most importantly, the cooperative spirit between Illinois water utilities and healthcare facilities promises ongoing improvements in our collective efforts to protect our most vulnerable populations. We strongly urge Governor JB Pritzker to sign this important water quality measure into law.”

House Bill 4988 has passed both the House and the Senate and awaits the Governor’s signature.