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VA Tackles Legionella

This week, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) held a “Legionella Disease Prevention in the Health Care Setting Strategy Workshop” at the VA Headquarters in Washington, DC.  The purpose was to bring together participants from VA and outside experts from CDC, EPA, and others to review approaches for prevention of Legionella in the healthcare setting.  The workshop supports active development of VHA policy and practice for Legionella.  The VA attendees heard from CDC about their guidelines for prevention of healthcare associated Legionella and also learned about the approaches used in Australia and the U.K.  Presentations also covered information about current research, analytical methods, monitoring strategies, and disinfection technologies.

Of most significance to states were presentations on the regulatory environment.  EPA stressed that installation of treatment at health care facilities would make them regulated public water systems subject to many other SDWA based requirements like the Total Coliform Rule, Lead and Copper Rule and requirements for Disinfection Byproducts.  Lisa Daniels of Pennsylvania reinforced some of the challenges facilities will face, through a review of her state’s approach to Legionella and facilities installing treatment.  Health care administrators and facility managers, at least at VA, should now have a good understanding of the significance of the treatment decision and the additional responsibilities it will bring.

After hearing from the outside speakers for two days, the VA officials continued to meet to discuss Legionella strategies and work toward updated policies and procedures on Legionella control for VA facilities.  Hopefully, the strategies developed by such a large medical care organization (they are apparently the largest single health care provider in the country) will give other health care facilities a good model for their respective approaches to Legionella.  Inclusion of EPA and states, at this stage, to outline regulatory issues, should help assure that these facilities get off to a good start and understand their responsibilities as public water systems.

The presentations from this workshop may be available at a future date.  If so, ASDWA will share these with states as a resource on Legionella.  We expect that Legionella will continue to be a high profile issue and we will keep states informed of related activities.