Illinois Veterans Home, Quincy

VILLA PARK—Illinois may soon have new regulations and rules in place to prevent water-borne illnesses like Legionnaires’ disease.

A General Assembly rulemaking committee has given the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) the authority to more than double the minimum amount of chlorine required in public water supplies. This move is proposed to prevent the outbreak of heinous water-borne diseases such as Legionnaires’.

State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park), a fierce advocate for the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy throughout the facility’s Legionnaires’ crisis, called the policy a major step toward preventing similar tragedies from occurring in Illinois homes.

“The Legionnaires’ crisis at the Quincy veterans’ home has emphasized the need for the state to be proactive in policies to ensure Illinois’ water supply is safe,” Cullerton said. “This step will empower the IEPA to protect homes and facilities throughout Illinois from these preventable illnesses. It is our duty to learn from the deaths of these brave heroes to ensure this never happens again anywhere in our great state.”

Since 2015, 13 residents of the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy have died of complications caused by Legionnaires’ disease. Cullerton served in the Army from 1990 to 1993 as an infantryman and has been a staunch advocate for Illinois’ veterans, especially those at the Quincy home greatly affected by continuous cases of the disease during the last governor’s watch.

During a rulemaking hearing, the Illinois Department of Public Health argued that “the minimal residual disinfectant found in the public water supply was found to be drastically ineffective.”

“Our nation’s heroes have survived foreign conflict zones – the greatest danger they face should not be living in a state facility,” Cullerton said. “I’m glad to see the committee work in a bipartisan manner to not only take care of our veterans but all residents of Illinois.”

The new rule will raise the minimum required level of chlorine in water to 0.5 milligrams per liter of “free” chlorine, or 1.0 milligrams per liter of “combined” chlorine. Federal regulations only stipulate there be “detectable” levels of chlorine and do not enforce a specific minimum level.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people at increased risk of Legionnaire’s disease are 50 years of age or older or have certain risk factors, such as being a current or former smoker, having a chronic disease or having a weakened immune system.

“People across Illinois should be able to rely on a safe and reliable water supply,” Cullerton said. “If we all work together we can institute a real solution to eliminate the risk of harmful diseases such as Legionnaires’ indefinitely.”