Health advocates speak out in support of Smith-Wade-El’s Legionnaires disease legislation

LANCASTER, May 17 – Local and state health experts joined state Rep. Ismail Smith-Wade-El, D-Lancaster, at a news conference on Thursday to support his legislation (H.B. 2145) aimed at preventing Legionnaires disease.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that is caused by Legionella bacteria, which is naturally occurring in freshwater, including water that supplies public water systems. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal. Pennsylvanians who are at increased risk for complications with this disease include people over 50, those who smoke or have lung disease, and those who live with cancer or are otherwise immunocompromised.

“All Pennsylvanians have a constitutional right to clean water, but too many people in low-income housing are drinking water contaminated by the Legionella bacteria,” Smith-Wade-El said. “This bill seeks to a public good ensuring that everyone in Pennsylvania can enjoy their right to clean, healthy water.”

Smith-Wade-El’s legislation would establish guardrails to ensure public safety and prioritize root cause solutions to ensure water is properly tested and treated before it enters homes and buildings for human use. The legislation also aims to equip consumers with the information and tools necessary to manage their risk of the disease through notifications of water system disruption events that can lead to greater Legionella bacteria exposure.

State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York, a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “I am happy to stand alongside Representative Smith-Wade-El in support of House Bill 2154, which brings awareness to Legionnaires Disease. Let’s stay safe and make sure we can help keep all Pennsylvanians healthy.”

The other speakers at the press conference were fully in support of Smith-Wade-El’s bill:

“Over the last decade we have seen a five-fold increase in Legionnaires' disease cases and sadly, 1 in 10 who contract the disease will die from it.  We can and must do better to address this preventable disease through meaningful “upstream” water management to improve the quality of the water delivered to our homes and buildings for human use," said Dr. Hung Cheung, MD, CEO, Cogency, University of Pennsylvania faculty member, and Board Member, Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires' Disease. "We applaud Rep Smith-Wade-El and the other bill sponsors for taking a leadership role in pursuing state legislation to effectively reduce cases associated with this serious waterborne disease through improved water quality management to protect the most vulnerable in our community."

"As a health advocate and a mother and grandmother of high-risk individuals, I applaud Representative Smith Wade El for House Bill 2145, focused on the prevention of Legionnaires' disease," said Tonya Winders, executive director of the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease.  "Safe water is a human right for all and we can end the needless suffering from this waterborne disease by focusing on all cases through proper management, communication and education as this common-sense bill provides.  We urge its enactment this session."

“The Pennsylvania Apartment Association (“PAA”) supports HB2145 as introduced by Representative Ismail Smith-Wade-El,” Carol Christner, CEO, PA Apartment Association. ”This disease is increasingly harmful and has a disproportionate impact on some of our most vulnerable citizens including many of our members’ valued residents such as our seniors and those individuals suffering from pre-existing medical conditions. As it is vitally important that we act to prevent preventing a deadly outbreak, PAA stands ready to work with the General Assembly in addressing public safety barriers and identifying the resources necessary to mitigate the risk of this disease.”

The bill was sent to the Health Committee in March 2024.