Erin Brockovich Expresses Concern in Rise of Legionnaire’s Disease in New York

Roughly a year after her trip to Hoosick Falls, Erin Brockovich was back in the Capital Region on Tuesday, speaking about the rise in reported cases of Legionnaire’s Disease across New York.

“You didn’t have this outbreak because it started yesterday,” Brockovich said. “This has been building and going on for a while.”

“Last year, New York led the nation in reported cases of Legionnaire’s Disease with 718,” said Alliance to Prevent Legionnaire’s Disease Spokesperson Daryn Cline.

Brockovich, the famed environmental advocate, was joined by other stakeholders who are calling on state lawmakers to improve regulations that were put in place after a 2015 outbreak in the South Bronx. That’s where high school teacher James Rouse was exposed to the waterborne bacteria Legionella when drinking from a public water supply.

“The doctor first thought he had the flu. They later then diagnosed him with Legionnaire’s disease; days later, he was dead,” said Rouse family spokesperson Kathy Mitchell.

This past fall, 15 people tested positive for Legionnaire’s at the Wesley Community, a senior living center in Saratoga Springs, where two elderly individuals died. Other recent cases were reported in Long Island, Syracuse, Lockport and Schenectady.

“These New York regulations fail to address the real issue, the origin of Legionella bacteria, the New York public drinking water supply,” said Cline.

In addition to seeking more funding to upgrade water infrastructure, Brockovich is calling on leaders to do a better job of enforcing EPA guidelines, as well publicizing all Legionnaire’s cases and investigating their source. She calls it a matter of life and death.

“They’re real, they exist, they’re happening, they could get worse,” Brockovich said.