Maryland - Legionella Prevention and Costs of Legionnaires Outbreaks

Historical Headlines Related to Legionella

July 12, 2024

According to officials, elevated levels of Legionella bacteria were recently detected in water fixtures during routine testing at the Social Security Administration’s headquarters building in Woodlawn, Maryland. A spokesperson for Social Security said in a statement that after a broad sweep of water fixtures, some came back with elevated levels, which is not unusual given testing experts have told the General Services Administration that roughly half of the water samples they take come back positive. (Source)

June 27, 2024

After Legionella bacteria was discovered in the building’s water supply, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) headquarters in Baltimore has temporarily closed. The presence of Legionella prompted immediate action to protect staff and CMS officials have assured that no employees have been harmed by the bacteria. The bacteria was found during routine plumbing tests, as reported by the Washington Post. CMS stated, “The health and safety of the CMS workforce is our top priority. In an abundance of caution, we have closed our location in Baltimore until the situation is resolved.” The building will remain closed for several weeks while the water supply undergoes treatment. Employees have been instructed to work remotely during this period. (Source)

December 11, 2023

In a letter to the editor, a Ocean City, MD resident claimed that "We have an issue with legionella bacteria in the water in Ocean City." They went on to state, "The large condos that had over 1,000 people in them during the season may contain less than 100. Some condo units may be vacant for weeks or even months. Whatever chlorine the city added to the water has long since evaporated. And since the heat must remain on in vacant condos to prevent pipe freezing, there is an opportunity for those low concentrations of legionella to grow and reach alarming levels." (Source)

November 2, 2023

Staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's top research center, the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, complained to federal regulators about hazards in the site's ventilation system, including risk of Legionella bacteria. The complaint sent to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alleged that the facility's chillers, which are part of temperature regulation systems, had not received maintenance in more than three years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chiller maintenance is necessary to protect staff and community members from Legionella, a bacteria that can cause the lung infection Legionnaire's disease. (Source)

August 24, 2023

Investigation of the source of a single Legionnaires’ disease case at the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland is ongoing according to the Office of Public Affairs, Federal Bureau of Prisons. No additional cases of Legionnaires’ have been identified at the prison and no deaths deaths have occured. “Every FBOP facility including FCI Cumberland has contingency plans to address a large range of concerns or incidents, including communicable diseases, and is fully equipped and prepared to implement these plans as necessary,” the spokesman said. While the FBOP’s contingency plans “are sensitive in nature” and unavailable to the public, the bureau takes communicable diseases seriously, he said. (Source)

March 8, 2023

Associate Policy Director Dominic Butchko testified before the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee in opposition to SB 512. The SB 512 Bill is titled Drinking Water – Legionella Pneumophila Bacterium – Minimizing Growth and Transmission. This bill requires localities operating public water systems to maintain a detectable residual disinfectant level of at least 0.5 milligrams per liter of chlorine. The testimony argued that while the goal of delivering safe public utilities is noble, the procedure called for in SB 512 imposes an unreasonable mandate on local government. The timeline counties would need to adhere to is particularly onerous under the bill. Counties would be required to notify the public and test for certain water contaminants no more than four hours after becoming aware of a disruption in a water system. Compliance with these requirements, and the myriad others listed in the bill, would no doubt increase operating costs and expenses for ratepayers. (Source)

March 1, 2023

The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) sent a warning letter to American Cruise Lines after 3 passengers developed Legionnaire’s disease and the company failed to adequately treat the ships’ drinking water. The first confirmed case of Legionnaire’s disease was reported in April 2021, with two more cases reported in September and October 2021. Between April and August 2022, FDA inspectors tested the drinking water on the American Star and American Heritage and found ongoing evidence of Legionella bacteria. 93% of water samples on the American Star tested positive for Legionella bacteria in April 2022, including samples taken from showerheads in the rooms for passengers and crew. (Source)

August 18, 2022

In 2019, Maryland state health officials confirmed that Legionella was found in the water system at the MDTA I-895/Baltimore Harbor Tunnel facility. According to Maryland State Health Department, 19 of 28 samples collected at the facility July 10 tested positive for Legionella, though at very low concentrations. Tests were done again July 12 following water treatment, and results showed significant improvement — only one of the 28 samples came back positive, again at very low concentrations.

Reported Settlements and Jury Awards

Given the incidence of legionella in Maryland, and its associated harm, personal injury claims and litigation are also becoming more frequent. Reported settlements and jury awards are unavailable at this time.

State Cap on Jury Awards

Maryland has a cap on the award amounts allowable by law. The Maryland statute places an $830,000 cap on non-economic damages for injuries and wrongful death cases. The cap increases to $1,245,000 in wrongful death cases if you include the cap on survival actions. If there are two or more claimants in a wrongful death case, the cap increases to $2,075,000. In addition, public health notices and negative media attention can also lead to business interruption and reputation damage.

Groundwater Temperature Risk Level – Medium

Overall Liability and Risk for Maryland – High

No, ASHRAE 188 is not part of the state code

Legionella and Water Management Plan Assistance

Need help? For Legionella consulting and services, Water Management Plans, Legionella Control Systems, and Legionella testing please contact us at Legionella Control Systems at 888-416-8626 or