Erin Brockovich calls on New York officials to address Legionnaires' outbreaks

A coalition of public health advocates — including famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich and representatives from the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires' Disease — called on New York state health officials to address water contamination in order to protect residents from further cases of Legionnaires' disease at a press conference at the state Capitol Building in Albany on Jan. 24, according to the Times Union.

Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. It is not spread via person-to-person contact, but can be contracted by inhaling mist from infected water sources.

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Cooling towers contaminated with Legionella bacteria have drawn much of the blame for Legionnaires' outbreaks in New York and elsewhere, and have subsequently been a primary focus of prevention efforts. Activists argue that while cooling towers can aerosolize the bacteria and facilitate its spread, these compromised facilities are merely a symptom of the larger problem of a contaminated water supply. The proposed solution: better infrastructure.

"People think it's airborne, but this is waterborne," said Ms. Brockovich during an interview after the press conference, according to the Press Republican. "I don't think we should be taking the cheap route when it comes to the public health and welfare."

While the activists gathered at the Tuesday press conference could not say exactly how much revitalizing New York's water system would cost, infrastructure investments often run into the billions. The estimated cost to build new water filtration plants for New York City range from $10 billion to $12 billion, said Daryn Cline, spokesman for the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires' Disease, according to the Times Union.

In 2016, New York reported 718 cases of Legionnaires' disease, more than any other state.

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