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Pa. State Senator Working On Legislation To Make It A Requirement To Test For Legionella In Buildings

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- In any given week, one Pittsburgh laboratory tests several thousand samples of water for Legionella.

Right now, it's voluntary to test for the bacteria, but new legislation hopes to change that.

The fast-spreading bacteria causes Legionnaires' disease, and a lab in Uptown Pittsburgh is the leading Legionella testing laboratory in the country.

"With everyone leaving their workplaces and units on hospitals shutting down, it's created an environment for Legionella to grow and spread," said Dr. Janet Stout.

Dr. Stout runs a team of "Legionella experts" at Special Pathogens Laboratory in Uptown. Her team tests water around the clock and quickly noticed a big problem.

"People are afraid to know whether Legionella is present or not. So by making it a requirement, that fear goes away," said Dr. Stout.

She's enlisting the help of lawmakers like state Senator Wayne Fontana to write new legislation to make it a requirement to test for the bacteria in certain buildings' water sources.

"In Pa., the outbreak of Legionella is on the increase and it's one of the highest states in the nation. No one seems to focus in on that at all," said Fontana (D-Allegheny County)

KDKA learned the future legislation will focus on certain buildings, aimed at keeping at-risk people safe.

"Some of those criteria are: Do you have a cooling tower? Do you house people at risk like a senior apartment complex or a nursing home or a hospital?" said Dr. Stout.

The first guidelines for preventing Legionnaire's disease came out of Allegheny County in 1993, and the leading lab sits along Forbes Avenue. Sen. Fontana said why shouldn't this area take the lead on a statewide law for prevention?

"There are bills out there in other states, New York, Virginia, New Orleans. And we're going to research all that to see if there are other criteria and other regulations that would work well for us," said Fontana.

Sen. Fontana plans to hit the ground running in Harrisburg on Monday.

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