By COREY WILLIAMS, ASSOCIATED PRESS DETROIT — Feb 16, 2016, 4:55 PM ET
Another part of the problem, according to Stout, is the CDC does not tell hospitals to test for legionella as a preventative measure.
“Our group … has been saying that’s backward and they should be making sure health care facilities should be testing,” she said.
Michigan, seeking to prevent another oversight fiasco after lead poisoning in Flint and a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the area, is considering new water testing rules for hospitals and possible changes to how large facilities manage their water systems that could include new monitoring requirements.
State officials are analyzing Michigan’s public health code in terms of “the requirement and enforcement of water testing in hospitals and other facilities,” Jason Moon, a spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, told The Associated Press.
The Legionnaires’ outbreak killed 9 people and sickened at least 78. Water testing found Legionella bacteria in at least one Flint hospital.
In addition, officials are looking at updated guidelines for building operators to mirror the standards developed by a national industry group that require building owners and managers to conduct annual surveys to look out for Legionella bacteria risks and develop plans to control it.
Both are part of the response by Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to the surge in Legionnaires’ cases after Flint switched its water source in 2014 from the Detroit water system to the Flint River water that wasn’t properly treated. The move, while the city was under emergency state financial management, allowed lead to leach from old pipes into Flint homes and businesses. Tests later showed high lead levels in some Flint children.
Moon did not give details of the testing requirements, so it’s difficult to say whether any changes would put Michigan at the forefront of building water systems safety. One expert tells The AP that no state requires any advance or preventative testing for Legionella in building water systems, and another notes that the drawback to the standards developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers is that they are voluntary.
“To get teeth, it needs to be adopted into plumbing, regulatory codes,” said Janet Stout, president of Pittsburgh-based Special Pathogens Laboratory, who has researched links between Legionella bacteria and public water supplies. “The only way” to prevent it “is to test before somebody gets sick.”