Yesterday’s announcement by the NJ Department of Health (DOH) reinforces why change is necessary at Trenton Water Works (TWW). The NJ DEP’s Unilateral Administrative Order taking operational control of the water utility, at the urging of Mercer County mayors, including Hopewell Township Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning, is a critical step towards fixing the staffing and oversight issues at TWW.
Following up on cases of Legionnaire’s Disease in areas of Hamilton Township served by TWW, the NJDOH proactively sampled the water from a wide swath of territory served by TWW from volunteer homeowners, including three sites in Hopewell Township. Multiple sites have tested positive for the bacteria, and NJDOH has notified all impacted homeowners.
“We want to make sure that all of our residents served by Trenton Water Works are informed about these positive test results and understand DOH’s recommendations to stay safe,” says Township Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning. She added, “these test results emphasize that DEP’s action this week to directly oversee Trenton Water Works is of paramount importance, and I look forward to seeing improvement at the utility under their direction.”
Getting sick from these bacteria is rare, but is possible when water is aspirated into the lungs, which is the only way to get Legionnaire’s Disease from legionella. When small water droplets are aerosolized – for example, during showers, using hot tubs or decorative fountains – legionella bacteria could be inhaled. In nature, legionella bacteria lives in freshwater and rarely causes illness. Most healthy people do not get Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed to legionella. Current or former smokers, those who suffer from a lung disease such as COPD, or have a weakened immune system have greater susceptibility.
People cannot get Legionnaires’ disease from drinking their water or from being around someone else with the disease.
Conditions that promote the growth of legionella include water temperature, stagnant water, and sediment. Hopewell Township Health Officer Dawn Marling strongly recommends all TWW customers set their hot water heaters to a minimum of 120⁰ F. This temperature will reduce Legionella growth and reduce the danger of Legionnaires’ Disease. Residents should flush any faucets or showers that do not get used at least weekly (run the water for 3 minutes).
Residents with specific concerns can call the Hopewell Township Health Office at 609-737-0120. Additional best practices for regular home plumbing system maintenance, as outlined by the NJDOH, can be found at www.nj.gov/health/cd/documents/topics/legion/Pamphlet_Legionnaires_Household_Water.pdf.
To read what the state is doing to address the problem at TWW, go to https://dep.nj.gov/trentonwater/.