Legionella Outbreaks Prompt State Action

  July 5, 2018

By Ryan Berlin

An aging facility and deferred maintenance can be causes for concern among maintenance and engineering managers for a number of reasons, and they can lead to a host of problems, In the case of an institutional or commercial facility’s HVAC system and components, these issues can lead to potentially harmful situations, as the state of Illinois is learning

The state is wrestling with fallout from recent deadly outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease at the Illinois Veterans Home, largely attributed to aging infrastructure, according to Water Quality Products.

Illinois’s governor, Bruce Rauner, recently announced a partnership between the state and the city of Quincy to build a new water well for the city. The city will replace the current water treatment plant, which draws water from the Mississippi River, with a groundwater system.

“Groundwater has the benefit of being cooler and the benefit of being filtered through sand,” Rauner says. “Cooler temperatures keep organisms from being able to grow readily, so it tends to be cleaner safer water. This has become a priority to the state, given the challenges of making sure we have clean, safe water for our veterans at the Quincy veterans home.”

The Illinois Protection Agency will provide $3 million in funding, and the Quincy City Council will provide an additional $3 million, with the a projected timeline of about a year. Construction will begin this summer, according to WGEM.

Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore says switching to a groundwater system has been identified in Quincy's long-range plan since 1981 and offered the following benefits to Quincy:

  • fewer chemical and bacteria elements in the water
  • reduced operational costs in manpower and in chemicals
  • elimination of a $600,000 cost in planned rehabilitation work to the outdated water treatment plant.

"Bottom line, this investment provides Quincy with a safer water supply that is easier to treat, less expensive to operate and makes room for riverfront development,” Moore says, “all while solving a critical need for the Illinois Veterans' Home."

Repeated outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease at the Illinois Veterans Home resulted in the death of 13 residents, the illness of more than 60 residents and employees, and 11 lawsuits against the state for negligence. In January, Rauner stayed at the Veterans home for a week and announced plans to provide major upgrades to the water system, which already had undergone extensive water treatment upgrades to no avail.

This Quick Read was submitted by Ryan Berlin, managing editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.


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