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Journal AWWA Cover Story

Have you seen the cover of the most recent Journal AWWA? The February 2020 cover story article, “Managing Legionella pneumophila in Water Systems,”  was written by Mark LeChevallier, PhD, principal of Dr. Water Consulting LLC (www.drwaterconsulting.com), and outlines how utilities can remain in compliance with existing regulations and take additional steps to protect their communities from the risk of Legionnaires’ disease. 

Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease are on the rise, and the disease is responsible for nearly all drinking water-related fatalities over the past 20 years. Dr. LeChevallier argues that while outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease are usually associated with L. pneumophila contamination in the plumbing of large buildings, that organism can also be detected even in “clean” drinking water distribution systems. 

Utilities might be in compliance with water treatment regulations, but is this enough to safeguard against pathogens such as Legionella pneumophila? Some utilities may be concerned about increased liability if they end up detecting L. pneumophila in their water systems, but not monitoring doesn’t protect from liability either. Basic management techniques coupled with a simple testing regimen to ensure those water management techniques are achieving the desired result can help prevent an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease and can significantly mitigate the risk of not implementing a Legionella management plan. 

In addition to the article in JAWWA, Dr. Chevalier has created a distribution system handbook, “Developing an Legionella pneumophila Monitoring Program,” that is available to download from his website, drwaterconsulting.com. The handbook serves as a guide for distribution systems to help navigate the process of setting up a Legionella pneumophila monitoring program. 

There are simple testing methods available to routinely monitor distribution systems for L. pneumophila, including the IDEXX Legiolert test. Dr. LeChevallier conducted a survey of 12 utilities for the JAWWA article that used the Legiolert test to monitor raw, finished, and distribution system samples. According to the utilities, their analysts found the test easy to use and felt confident in using the test to detect L. pneumophila in raw and treated waters. 

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