Feds detect Legionnaires’ disease in buildings across US, say many working from home possible factor

The Office of Inspector General said that it is investigating the situation.
Doctor with stethoscope, file photo

The water supply in at least six federal buildings in the U.S. has been contaminated by the bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease, with many government employees having not returned to their offices full-time after the official end to the pandemic being considered a likely contributing factor.

The findings are in an Office of Inspector General's report on the Government Services Administration. 

Two of the buildings are in Chicago, while the rest are in Detroit and the states of New York, Nebraska and Utah. They are operated by the GSA's Public Buildings Service.

“PBS must take immediate action to address the risk of Legionella contamination in water systems across its owned and leased buildings," the inspector general told The Washington Times. "In addressing this issue, PBS must improve its testing requirements for Legionella and strengthen contract and lease oversight.”

Investigators told the news outlet that teleworking may be a big contributor to this due to the lack of people in the buildings. 

One of the investigators said that if there are fewer people in the building, less water is flushed through the pipes. This can create a stagnant environment where Legionella pneumophila can rapidly grow.

The GSA says it is trying to fix the problem, following the release of the report.

“Consistent with the Office of Inspector General’s findings, GSA is now increasing water flushing and testing plans across our large facilities and is also increasing testing requirements for water quality while strengthening contract and lease oversight," the office said in a statement, according to the Washington Times.