U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz conducts routine Legionella bacteria testing in all garrison communities.
Environmental Final Governing Standards for Germany require the annual monitoring of bathroom showers for Legionella bacteria throughout USAG RP and U.S. Army garrisons across Germany to include on-post housing and tenant unit buildings.
2018 was the first year of the new annual testing requirement. More than 80% of shower facilities in USAG RP initially tested within standards in the first year. Other facilities required further testing and mitigation until all facilities eventually were within acceptable standards.
Legionella is a type of bacterium found naturally in freshwater environments, like lakes and streams. It can become a health concern when it grows in high concentrations in human-made water systems that can aerosolize from water, such as during use of contaminated shower heads and humidifiers. Water used for cooking and drinking typically does not pose a risk from Legionella. No Legionella-related illnesses have been reported in USAG RP military hospitals or clinics in more than 10 years.
The 10-minute sampling process requires an outsourced contractor from a German-certified testing laboratory to enter a home with supervision for collection of a hot water sample from the bathroom shower. Samples are sent to the lab with results reported within three weeks. If Legionella is detected above the Environmental Final Governing Standards for Germany action limit, residents will be notified and corrective actions taken immediately.
The Environmental Final Governing Standards for Germany are a regulatory directive, aligning both Department of Defense policy and German federal and state regulations to provide safe water and environmental compliance criteria for all DOD installations.
A notification letter from the Housing, Utilities and the Environmental Division will be issued to residents during the testing period.
Environmental officials with USAG RP note that this sampling is not connected to the Installation Management Command Directorate-Europe current lead survey being conducted. Collection methods differ for each of these surveys and some buildings may be subject to both.
USAG RP is committed to the health and safety of our Soldiers, family members and workforce.
For any medical questions you may have about Legionella, contact your primary care provider.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Legionella?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionella bacteria can be found naturally in fresh water and also in man-made settings if water is not properly maintained. These man-made water sources can become a health concern when small droplets of water containing the bacteria are vaporized (by showers or humidifiers) and are inhaled. People can only become infected by inhaling droplets containing Legionella bacteria at high concentrations, not by drinking the water or through contact with an infected person.
Why are buildings being tested?
This is the second year of a new annual requirement from the German government. The new requirement does not mean there is a new development or “spread” of a disease. Although standards in place are aimed at eliminating Legionella bacteria from homes and businesses, the presence of the bacteria itself is not a health crisis. People can only become infected by inhaling droplets containing Legionella bacteria at high concentrations, not by drinking the water or through contact with an infected person.
What actions are taken if a test sample exceeds allowances?
Actions for each building or facility will be different depending on the test results. The Baumholder Housing Office will notify residents of the results of their buildings’ test and any measures that will be taken to rectify the situation, if results show bacteria is above acceptable thresholds.
What should I do?
- Up to 100 CFUs/ml of bacteria requires no action.
- Above 100, but below 10,000 CFUs/ml of bacteria requires DPW to perform a two-step process of heating and flushing building water systems. Water can still be consumed (drinking and cooking) and used for bathing purposes.
- Levels above 10,000 CFUs/ml of bacteria requires DPW to perform a two-step process of heating and flushing building water systems. Residents can continue consuming their water (drinking and cooking), but must refrain from using the water for bathing (showers and baths).
Who is at increased risk?
People 50 years and older or individuals with certain risk factors have increased chances of becoming ill. These risk factors include:
- Being a current or former smoker
- Having chronic lung disease, such as emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Having a weakened immune system from diseases like cancer, diabetes or kidney failure
- Taking medication that weakens your immune system