Legionnaire’s disease

17 Aug 2015

In response to the recent cases of Legionnaire’s disease coming from the Bronx, the City Council passed a bill (Int. 866-2015) that places new compliance requirements on buildings that have cooling towers.  Cooling towers, as defined in the bill, also include evaporative condensers and fluid coolers that are part of a recirculated water system incorporated into a building’s cooling, industrial process, or energy production system.  The new bill operates in conjunction with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Commissioner’s Order.  Owners who received a Commissioner’s Order must comply with the directives of such order. 

The bill, expected to be signed into law by the Mayor, creates the following requirements:

  • All newly installed cooling towers must be registered with the Department of Buildings (DOB) prior to operation;
  • All existing cooling towers must be registered with the DOB within 30 days of the effective date of the law;
  • Owners must notify DOB within 30 days of cooling towers being removed or their use being permanently discontinued;
  • Owners must file an annual certification with the DOB attesting (1) that the cooling tower has been inspected, tested, cleaned, and disinfected; (2) that a maintenance program plan has been developed and implemented;
  • Cooling towers that have been shut down for more than five days must be cleaned and disinfected within 15 days prior to using the cooling tower;
  • Cooling towers shall be inspected and tested once every three months while the cooling tower is in use;
  • The DOH will establish by rule the acceptable methods of testing, the acceptable levels of microbes in cooling towers, and the necessary cleaning and disinfecting procedures and requirements. 

The law also creates civil penalties for each violation of the new requirements.  The civil penalties range from $2,000 to $25,000.

Owners who have received a commissioner’s order from the DOHMH must comply with such order in addition to complying with the new law.  Owners who must perform inspections, testing, and disinfecting to comply with a Commissioner’s Order should do so in a manner that is also consistent with the standards of new law.

The DOB will need to draft rules and create the necessary forms and filing procedures to implement the new law.  As these details emerge, CHIP will keep its members apprised.   

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