Legionella Testing & Prevention Regulations

close up image of bacteria used for legionella testing

Is Legionnaire’s Disease Deadly?

U.S. Senator for New York, Charles Schumer, took action in developing a plan to help prevent future Legionnaires’ disease cases from popping up in Upstate New York. As a result of this deadly disease claiming the lives of more than a dozen New Yorkers, Senator Schumer is pushing to increase federal funding to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The reason for increasing the federal funding to the CDC would be to further research the bacteria and the pneumonia it causes. A huge part of this movement would be the national standards developed for testing cooling towers and the impact that would have on the water treatment industry.

What Regulations Are There For Legionnaire’s Disease?

Below are copies of Schumer’s letters to the CDC and Senate:

Dear Dr. Frieden,

I write today to urge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase its efforts to prevent future outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. I was extremely pleased to see that the Administration’s FY 2016 budget proposal requests $500 million for the Core Infectious Diseases Program, which is where CDC’s activities around Legionnaires’ disease are funded.

As you know, Legionella is a bacteria that can lead to a serious type of lung infection called Legionnaire’s disease. Multiple incidents of Legionnaires’ disease have occurred in New York over the past few months, all due to the presence of Legionella in the water supply. In August of this year, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease emerged in the Bronx, killing more than ten New Yorkers and making many more ill. Then, earlier this month three patients with Legionnaires’ disease were identified in Syracuse. Unfortunately, one of those patients passed away.

In response, New York State recently implemented sweeping regulations that call for the registration and periodic testing of all cooling towers. There is currently no federal standard for testing but tragically incidents of Legionnaires’ disease have increased over the past few years. While there is currently no consensus on the frequency for performing this testing, New York’s actions present an opportunity to better understand the usefulness of regular testing of a building’s water supply.

New York is not the only state experiencing Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks. In Illinois, a veteran’s home and in California, a prison have both reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease. It is with great concern for the health of New Yorkers and all Americans that I implore you to prioritize Legionella research and prevention activities. I look forward to your response. Should you have additional questions, please feel free to reach out to my staff.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator


Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:

We urge you to recognize the importance and recent surge in U.S. cases of Legionnaires’ disease as you finalize the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies’ Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Appropriations bill.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year an estimated 8,000 to 18,000 people seek care in a hospital due to Legionnaires’ disease in the United States. However, recently there has been an uptick in the number of cases and unfortunately deaths related to Legionnaires’ disease. An infection of Legionnaires’ disease occurs when a person breathes in a mist or vapor that has been contaminated with Legionella.

Studies have found that cooling towers can be infected with the bacteria. Currently there is no national standard for the frequency of testing for Legionella in cooling towers or elsewhere. The CDC has been working on research, surveillance and reporting efforts around Legionnaires’ disease, but with an over 249% increase in disease prevalence between 2000 and 2011, it is clear that more needs to be done.

The Administration’s FY 2016 budget proposal requests $500 million for the Core Infectious Diseases Program, which is where CDC’s activities around Legionnaires’ disease are funded. This is an important increase of $250 million. CDC believes that Legionella is an emerging respiratory pathogen and as such they would like to have the increased resources to properly research and eventually create a national testing standard. These are actions that are necessary to curb the recent outbreaks and better understand how to prevent and treat these occurrences.

We realize the Subcommittee has many priorities to fulfill, but we urge you to support increased funding for the CDC’s Core Infectious Diseases Program within the final Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies’ Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 appropriations bill. Legionnaires’ disease is a public health threat that is not fully understood. This funding will go a long way to ensuing that the necessary resources to research and combat this disease are provided. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of our request.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator



matt welsh
Matt Welsh
Vice President, Water Consultant at | Website | + posts

Matt Welsh is the Vice President and Water Consultant at Chardon Labs.  He helps consult a wide range of customers utilizing various methods of water treatment, from chemical to chemical-free approaches, large and small applications, and across a wide range of geographical influences.  With 20 years of water treatment experience, including a wide range of troubleshooting and service in potable water and non-potable HVAC and industrial applications, he is an expert in water treatment chemistry for cooling towers, boilers, and closed-loop systems.