Last year, on February 20, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released a proposed rule in the Pennsylvania Bulletin which called for the state’s water utilities to maintain a 0.2 mg/L chlorine residual in the water distribution system. This kind of active form of prevention should not only reduce the risk to individuals and families, but should also allow the groundwork necessary for other states across the country to pursue similar preventative actions. Indeed water distribution endpoints (i.e. all locations prior to potable water entering a residential or commercial building) are vital spots for potentially legionella bacteria formation.
As the Pennsylvania Bulletin Proposed Rule explains, “The distribution system is the remaining component of the public water supplies yet to be adequately addressed in National efforts to eradicate waterborne disease.” This explanation clearly makes a lot of sense and thus, will hopefully be a thought process adapted by other states around the country. And while this first step within Pennsylvania is welcomed and certainly appreciated, there are additional measures which can be taken to make an even more effective protective water distribution system. While the Pennsylvania proposed rule requires water utilities to maintain a 0.2 mg/L chlorine residual in the water distribution system, this measurement applies to both free chlorine and total chlorine. In comparison, the Water Research Foundation released a report in 2010 entitled “Criteria for Optimized Distribution Systems” which suggested a minimum of 0.2 mg/L of free chlorine residual in the water distribution system (a standard which Pennsylvania would meet) along with a minimum of 0.5 mg/L of total chlorine residual in the water distribution system (a standard which Pennsylvania is slightly shy of while other states including Texas, North Carolina, and Florida have reached).
Regardless, this step forward for Pennsylvania should be welcomed and embraced. The more states which promote this kind of active prevention strategy, the less outbreaks and sporadic individual cases of Legionnaires’ disease as a whole will arise in this country.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.