August of this year was marked by the worst outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in New York City history. Twelve people died and more than 100 people got sick. This prompted the City to pass a law requiring the registration of cooling towers, fluid coolers and evaporative condensers with the City. The deadline for registering just passed this Thursday, September 17, 2015. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled similar statewide regulations requiring building owners to register, test, inspect and disinfect all cooling towers when necessary.
The New York City Buildings Department is developing a registry of buildings with cooling towers and evaporative condensers – which they have identified as the likely source of the recent outbreak – in order to make sure they are properly maintained and cleaned.
The law further requires that owners register cooling towers with the Department of Buildings, inspect and test them on a quarterly basis, and clean and disinfect cooling towers if any test comes back positive for microbes, such as legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. Building owners must also notify the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene if any test comes back positive for microbes.
Cooling towers are different than water tanks, which store water for drinking, washing dishes, and showering. A cooling tower reduces temperature by exposing recirculated water directly to fan-forced air, such as with air conditioning, ventilation and/or heating systems. Cooling towers can be on commercial/industrial buildings, as well as residential buildings.
The law requires building owners to hire environmental consultants with demonstrated experience performing disinfection using current industry standard protocols. Disinfection requires the use of biocides, which requires commercial pesticide applicator certification in Category 7G – Cooling Towers, Pulp & Paper Process issued by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC).