Schedule your free consultation today.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

All fields are required



(833) 330-3663

Mercer County NJ Legionnaires’ Disease

Posted in Legionella,Legionnaire's disease,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on March 30, 2023

Seven more cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been reported in Mercer County, an area served by Trenton Water Works since last October says the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH).

According to recent reports, the seven cases came from Trenton, Ewing Township, Lawrence Township, and Hamilton Township. Two of those infected have died.

An Ongoing Problem

 This has been an ongoing problem. Legionella bacteria was previously detected in water supplies from homes served by Trenton Water Works. Between December 2021 and October 2022 health officials have indicated that five cases and one death were attributed to the bacteria. Another seven cases and two deaths have been reported between October 2022 and March 2023.

While people cannot get Legionnaires’ disease from other people or by drinking the water contaminated with the bacteria, people can become infected by breathing in small droplets.

Droplets from showerheads, hot tubs, garden water fixtures, etc. are common carriers.

Trenton Water Works Failures

Trenton Water Works has been on the State of New Jersey’s radar for a while now, citing significant concerns with operations and management, including intermittent failures in the treatment process, how they monitor water quality, and training deficiencies in operating personnel. The state has indicated a need for Trenton Water Works to invest in required maintenance and upgrade their aging infrastructure.

Problems became so serious that the state took over directing operations at the flailing water utility last October.

State Takes Over Trenton Water Works

After egregious lapse in safety and failed inspections, the State of New Jersey took over Trenton Water Works with a Unilateral Administrative Order. Governmental take-over does not occur on a whim. The significant safety risk and continued failures made this necessary.

For example, in addition to inadequate staffing, the facility failed to remove organic matter from filters, leaving the system susceptible to Giardia and Cryptosporidium parasites.

Their mixers and chlorination system have a history of multiple failures, leading to levels beyond acceptable limits of disinfection byproducts remaining in the drinking water.

The utility company has also been out of compliance in maintaining its seven-acre water reservoir. This “open, uncovered finished water reservoir” provides water to approximately 151,900 residential customers. This uncovered reservoir is vulnerable to human activity, algal growth, and animal waste. The state has requested Trenton Water Works to “cover” the reservoir, replace it, or provide adequate treatment to “address the pathogen risks.” A broken check valve was also allowing untreated water to flow into the treated water. The firm continues to fail to meet these requirements.

The list goes on and on.

Solution in Progress

Officials said that Trenton Water Works has solutions in progress. These solutions may actually take place now that they are directly under the thumb of the State.

The firm plans to address the contaminated water system by starting a “low-velocity flushing program” throughout the service area in early April to increase water circulation and to increase chlorine levels. Customers will be notified when these flushing activities are occurring in their service areas.

Health officials from NJDOH have briefed and working with elected representatives at the local and State level and will continue to collaborate with them throughout this ongoing investigation, says a report from New Jersey Health.

Residents and Building Owners Urged to Do Their Part

The current water supply issue is being worked on, but it will be an extended process. In the meantime, potentially contaminated water may still be in people’s homes and businesses.

The state Department of Health is urging building owners and residents who receive water from Trenton Water works to take a few small actions to reduce the risk of Legionella growth in building plumbing systems and homes.

If you do not know your water utility company, check your water bill. The utility company should be listed. If you rent, ask the property owner for this information.

Helpful activities include:

  • Avoid high risk activities such as hot tubs, decorative fountains, and power washing.
  • Cleaning or replacing shower heads and faucet screens whenever buildup is visible.
  • Keep water heater settings to at least 120° F.
  • Routinely flush sinks and shower taps. It is a good idea to flush for 3 minutes if the tap has been out of use for more than a week.
  • Drain water hose. Detach and drain the hose. Shut off water valve and drain the pipe when not in use.
  • Home dialysis customers should contact their kidney specialist to check if additional water testing for residual chlorine or any other measures is required before use.
  • Follow maintenance for in-home medical equipment such as CPAP or BiPAP machines, Neti Pots, attachments for nebulizers, etc. Most of these equipment require sterile water. Check manufacturer instructions for details.
  • Residents using tap water for aquariums should monitor residual chlorine levels before using and treat as needed to protect tank aquatic life.
  • Maintain hot tubs. Residents with hot tubs should ensure sufficient disinfectant levels and follow manufacturer’s maintenance activities (cleaning, scrubbing, replacing filter and water, etc.)
  • Remove or regularly flush existing dead legs (often created by renovation). Dead legs are a section of capped pipe that contains water but is not in use or infrequently used.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is the pneumonial illness associated with infection of Legionella bacteria. The bacteria infects a person by making its way into the lungs by way of tiny droplet containing the offending bacteria.

It is rare for a normally healthy person to become sick with Legionnaires’ disease, even after exposure. But certain groups of people are more susceptible to illness. For example, those who are over 50 years old, particularly those who smoke are more likely to become sick after exposure. Individuals with certain medical conditions such as chronic lung disease or other chronic health conditions are also at increased risk. Additionally, those with a compromised immune system from medication, existing illness, or other conditions are more likely to contract Legionnaires’ disease after exposure.


The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to other common respiratory diseases. For example, cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches are common. While easily treatable with the right antibiotics, Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal if not detected and treated early. Early treatment is key!

Tests for Legionella Infection

Specialized tests are necessary to ensure proper diagnosis of Legionella infection. According to NJDOH, “health officials continue to urge health care providers to collect lower respiratory specimens for Legionella PCR [a type of genetic test looking for the specific bacteria] and/or culture, in conjunction with the use of the urinary antigen test, when suspecting Legionnaires’ disease.”

While the urinary antigen test is the easiest to perform and the most common diagnostic method, it is limited to the strains of Legionella bacteria that it can detect. The preferred PCR and culture of lower respiratory specimens are able to detect all Legionella species and strains.

Have Questions?

Are you concerned for yourself or someone you love that may have fallen ill with Legionnaires’ disease? Contact The Lange Law Firm, PLLC to schedule your free, no obligation legal consultation with a Legionnaires’ disease lawyer who has a reputation for success in handling cases just like yours. Call (833)330-3663 or fill out the online contact form to get the answers you deserve.