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Erin Brockovich urges water infrastructure upgrades to combat Legionnaires


Famous public health advocate Erin Brockovich is leading a campaign to pressure New York state lawmakers and officials to focus more resources on combating the deadly Legionnaires' disease. Brockovich says New Yorkers are at risk of seeing even more cases of the disease if major steps are not taken.

The Empire State has among the highest rates of Legionnaires' disease in the nation, a type of pneumonia that is contracted when people breathe in water droplets that contain Legionella bacteria. The state bolstered its efforts to combat the sometimes fatal Legionnaires' Disease in 2015 after an outbreak occurred in the Bronx in water cooling systems, which killed more than a dozen residents. But Brockovich says the state's response to that outbreak was inadequate and did not address a much larger issue.

"We need to start having a serious conversation about where the sources of our water issues are coming from, looking at our municipalities and the treatment of our water, where we can be making changes to further reduce outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease and so we’re up here today having that conversation one that’s long overdue," Brockovich said.

Brockovich and the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires' Disease are calling on New York lawmakers to replace the state's outdated water infrastructure and test more frequently for Legionella bacteria.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for a $2 billion investment in water infrastructure projects throughout the state. Brockovich said that is a step in the right direction, but it is still not enough. She fears a super bug outbreak if more is not done. 

An outbreak of Legionnaires occurred at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse in October of 2015 that sickened at least three people. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.