In partial response to the Opera House outbreak just over three years ago in New York City and New York State put in place measures governing the registration and treatment of cooling towers in an effort to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease. Specifically, New York City enacted Local Law 77 to regulate registration, testing, treatment, and inspection of all New York City cooling towers for waterborne pathogens such as Legionella. Built into the legislation are requirements that building owners and operators develop a comprehensive plan for cooling towers that lines up with ANSI/ASHRAE 188-2018.
Unfortunately, a 2018 new report revealed nearly 1,000 towers were in violation of the new law. According to the latest data, 44 percent of owners have not had their cooling towers inspected since 2017. Because of this, Ben Kallos sponsored legislation (Int. No. 1149-B, 1158 & 1166-A) to amend Section 28-317.5 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York. The amendment requires building owners to receive a reminder 30 days prior to required filing deadlines. Cooling tower inspectors themselves are also required to report within five days when inspections occur. Lastly, the amendment requires the DHMH to conduct a year-long assessment of all potential determinants of Legionnaires’ disease in NYC.
All of these changes will become affective Tuesday, September 24, 2019. With the number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease on a dramatic rise, it is necessary for all building owners to be good stewards of their residents and employees.
We at IWC know this is just the first step that needs to be taken in terms of legislation to prevent Legionnaires’ disease. We are as always impressed with New York City’s proactive approach to keeping people safe. But, we know there is much more that needs to happen in terms of regulation for not just cooling towers, but for all potable and non-potable water sources. Cooling towers are not the main source for the Legionella bacteria growth.
Legionella bacteria thrives within BIOFILM. Biofilm is in all of our potable and non-potable water systems. We can be exposed to the inhalation of Legionella bacteria from:
- Faucets and shower heads
- Spas and whirlpool tubs
- Decorative fountains
- Cooling Towers
- Evaporative condensers
- Medical and dental equipment
Cooling towers are an overemphasized source of Legionnaires’ Disease. Cooling towers are NOT the major reservoir or source causing Legionnaires’ disease. The potable (domestic) water distribution systems of large buildings, including hospitals and hotels are considered the primary source of Legionella and disease as supported by peer reviewed research data and expert sources such as the CDC.
Maintaining your cooling towers is important, but building owners also need to assess all risk factors in their buildings. Developing a water management plan and test for Legionella bacteria is imperative to prevent Legionellosis. Contact IWC to find out how we can help keep your employees and residents safe with our defensible and cost-effective water management plans.