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Legionnaires’ Disease and Hot Water Tanks and Heaters

Legionnaires’ Disease can be a serious illness that often requires hospitalization and regular monitoring. In New York City, it is known that cooling towers can be a major source of Legionnaires’ Disease outbreaks – but it is important to note that poorly maintained hot water tanks and heaters can have a high possibility of harboring Legionnaires’ Disease as well.

If you or a loved one suffered Legionnaires’ Disease from a poorly maintained hot water tank or heater, speak to a Legionnaires’ Disease lawyer in New York City to explore your legal options.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ Disease is a rare form of severe pneumonia, caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria – most commonly found in freshwater sources such as rivers and lakes. Symptoms are similar to pneumonia, but they can come much faster and severe, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

In addition, some with Legionnaires’ Disease may suffer from flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headaches, and muscle aches.

Although Legionnaires’ Disease can be easily treated with a regimen of antibiotics, it almost always requires a prolonged hospitalization and continued monitoring to look out for any lasting damage in the lungs.

How Can I Get Legionnaires’ Disease?

The Legionella bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ Disease is naturally found in fresh bodies of water – but they often infect New York City residents through contaminated, man-made storage systems. This includes:

Any large body of water that is left stagnant and untreated is a prime breeding ground for Legionella bacteria.

Can Legionnaires’ Disease Be Present in Hot Water Tanks and Heaters?

Unfortunately, hot water tanks and heaters can be a major source of Legionnaires’ Disease outbreaks. Many consider that the nature of hot water tanks and heaters is to keep water hot – preventing any harmful bacteria from growing in the tank. However, it is important to note that the optimal growth environment for Legionella is from 77F – 108F.

For that reason, it is highly recommended to maintain temperatures in a hot water heater at a specific temperature to minimize the risk of infection. Organizations such as the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommend keeping hot water in heaters and tanks at 140F – a temperature in which Legionella cannot survive.

Despite these recommendations, some property managers do not adequately keep their heaters at a high enough temperature – greatly increasing the risk of a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak.

Who is Liable for Legionnaires’ Disease in Hot Water Tanks and Heaters?

Ultimately, those who are responsible for managing, monitoring, and/or maintaining the hot water tanks and heaters in your building or residence may be responsible for any potential Legionnaires’ Disease outbreaks that occur.

Often, some property managers do not keep hot water tanks and heaters at the OSHA-recommended 140F for various reasons. 140F is an incredibly high temperature that can scald those who are using the water. Additionally, property managers who want to save money may maintain hot water heaters at a significantly lower temperature. In fact, the US Department of Energy recommends keeping hot water tanks and heaters at 120F to conserve energy and as a cost-effective alternative. Unfortunately, Legionella bacteria can still survive at this temperature.

In addition, some types of hot water heaters, such as electric tanks, do not evenly heat up the water in the tank. So even if the temperature is set for 140F, water temperatures at the bottom of the tank may be considerably cooler due to poor heat distribution.

Legionnaire’s Disease is a completely preventable illness if proper precautions are taken. If those in charge of hot water tanks and heaters have not properly taken all of these circumstances into account and a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak occurs as a result, they may be held fully liable any and all subsequent damages in a Legionnaires’ Disease lawsuit.

Contact Us Today for Assistance

If you or a loved one has contracted Legionnaires’ Disease from a hot water tank or heater, please contact The Lange Law Firm, PLLC today to discuss your case. We may be able to answer any questions you may have – and if you are exploring options for compensation, we can give you the tools and representation necessary to secure the recovery you deserve.Schedule a free consultation with us today and see how we can help you.