UC District Court rules on whether bacteria are a pollutant

Well, I am no lawyer but this certainly seems interesting from a microbial point of view: Court’s Reasoning That “Bacteria” Is Not A “Pollutant” Favorable For Policyholders In Other Cases – Insurance – United States.  From the article:

That court found that “under Louisiana law, Legionella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria” — the bacteria which cause Legionnaire’s disease — “do not qualify as ‘pollutants’ within the meaning of [pollution] exclusions.”

The article also quotes the ruling:

[T]he Court concludes that the bacteria Legionella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa do not qualify as pollutants. The nature of these microbial agents are bacteria, not pollutants as is “generally understood.” These bacteria are significantly different than a typical environmental pollutant and are also distinguishable from other common “pollutants” such as asbestos, carbon monoxide, gasoline, and lead paint. Nor are these bacteria “typically used” in the same manner with which the previously discussed pollutants are used by a “polluter.” Rather, these bacteria are simply microorganisms existing in a natural environment. Finally, they do not discharge, dispersal [sic], seepage [sic], migration [sic] in the manner that a typical pollutant does. For these reasons, Legionella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa do not qualify as pollutants ..


I am certainly out of my normal comfort zone here but I thought some of the microbiology of the built environment folks might find this interesting.


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Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.