WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease, a national organization dedicated to reducing the occurrence of Legionnaires’ disease by promoting public research, education, best practices for water management, and advocating for comprehensive policies to combat and investigate this preventable disease, today issued the following statement in response to the release of the Management of Legionella in Water Systems report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM):
Today’s NASEM report highlights many of the reasons that we’ve seen no progress in slowing or eliminating the dramatic increases in Legionnaires’ Disease around the world. While the report states that the sources for 96% of all cases of Legionnaires’ Disease are not known and acknowledges that a major factor in the significant spike in cases is aging infrastructure, water main breaks, water conservation and other environmental factors, it rehashes a range of largely premise-plumbing solutions that have not proven to reduce Legionnaires’ disease consistently.
The Alliance appreciates the complexity of the challenge to control Legionella bacteria, however the path to ultimately reduce the rates of disease requires an updated and comprehensive understanding of the source to tap challenges that must be addressed. The Alliance welcomes opportunities to engage NASEM, its committee members and the federal government agencies that funded this initiative to advance this discussion further as we continue on our long road toward meaningful solutions.
When NASEM announced it would take on this Management of Legionella in Water Systems report in late 2017, the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease jumped at the chance to participate. Our team of experts from throughout the country have worked in and with water systems for many years, studying what causes Legionnaires’ cases and outbreaks, who is most likely to be at risk of Legionnaires’ infection, and what conditions encourage the spread of this bacteria.
We spent many hours providing valuable research and testimony to the NASEM task force from our members’ varied perspective, and we appreciate the opportunity to share our expertise. Our testimony included:
We can and must do better. In Illinois, state officials spent years carefully examining how to modernize the state’s water regulations for the first time since the 1980s. Rather than bow to temptation for more narrow solutions in the wake of tragic deaths of veterans in a highly publicized Legionnaires’ outbreak in western Illinois, they embraced a holistic view and systemwide reforms that should serve as a model for the nation: reducing stagnant water, better controlling water age through smarter system design, reducing nutrients that cause bacterial growth, and ensuring fully disinfected water is delivered to homes and buildings.
We were also encouraged by the recommendations in May from the National Summit on Waterborne Disease that embraced clear realities: we will only effectively prevent Legionnaires’ when we effectively educate public officials and the general public about water quality and its challenges, and when we take a comprehensive source-to-tap approach that directly connects the quality of our water sources and entire distribution systems with the spread of dangerous waterborne pathogens.
The National Summit report (http://waterbornedisease.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Summit-Key-Findings_FINAL.pdf) is yet further evidence that the real work to prevent Legionnaires’ Disease around the country is still ahead of us. The more we objectively study the threats and causes of Legionella development and fully consider solutions to address it at every step along its path to our homes and businesses, the better our results. APLD’s sole mission is to save lives and prevent infection through safer, cleaner drinking water. We must learn from this report and turn theoretical recommendations into real, life-saving results.”