If you own or operate a cooling tower, fluid cooler, or evaporative condenser in New York City, the city requires that you abide by strict regulations in order to prevent injuries to the people in the vicinity of your building. These pieces of equipment are particularly prone to spreading Legionella, a dangerous bacteria that was responsible for a fatal outbreak in 2015, prompting New York City to strengthen its requirements for cooling tower operators.
What Is Legionella Bacteria?
Legionella is a gram-negative bacteria that is responsible for causing a number of illnesses in humans, some of which can be potentially fatal. Legionella is a bacteria that thrives in freshwater; since all buildings rely on freshwater for basic functions such as plumbing, any location could harbor Legionella.
This microbe primarily transmits to humans via water droplets or vapor, which is produced in cooling towers and other machinery as part of their normal function. When Legionella comes into contact with the mucous membranes of humans, typically through the nose, mouth, or eyes, it can cause numerous illnesses. Pontiac fever is a flu-like sickness characterized by nausea, muscle aches, diarrhea, and loss of appetite, though it is rarely dangerous. The greater danger from Legionella bacteria comes from its namesake Legionnaires’ disease, which causes severe pneumonia that can prove fatal in as many as 10% of the individuals who contract it.
2015 New York City Legionella Regulations
As of 2015, New York City has set forth a number of regulations regarding the operation of cooling towers and other vapor-generating machinery. This includes regular inspection and maintenance to ensure that Legionella is not present, or if it is, to remove it from the water system as soon as possible.
All building owners who utilize cooling towers, evaporative condensers, and fluid coolers are required by law to register their facility with the city of New York. This ensures that the city can track certifications, maintenance, and other tasks mandated by the government for your building. You can register your building through New York’s online Cooling Tower Web Portal.
Simply registering your building is not sufficient to abide by New York regulations for cooling towers and other evaporative machinery. You must also submit to an annual certification to track the cleaning, disinfecting, legionella testing, and inspection of your cooling towers. If you have had lapses in the appropriate maintenance of your system, those must also be documented during your certification alongside an explanation of what measures were taken to correct the deficiencies and avoid future breaches. The Cooling Tower Web Portal also provides the option to upload this certification electronically for greater ease of use.
Regular Water System Maintenance
In addition to regular maintenance of the cooling tower, fluid cooler, or evaporative condenser, building owners must be sure to undergo regular maintenance to their water system as well. The health of a water system is critical to mitigating the risk of Legionella in a facility, not only because Legionella itself can be treated using skilled water management but also because issues like corrosion that are addressed during regular maintenance may offer a safe haven for Legionella bacteria to proliferate if left untreated.
Water systems that have experienced corrosion or damage to pipes provide safe locations out of the main flow of water where Legionella can hide, and cracks offer an opportunity for soiled water from outside the system to enter, carrying the bacteria with it. If your system has dead legs where water stagnates and rarely flows, you may be at an increased risk of Legionella. In addition, water systems facing challenges with biofilms and other materials are breeding grounds for Legionella, which find safety in the cooler water shielded by a biofilm.
Even if your system has been inspected less than a year ago, recent construction can also be a factor that prompts additional maintenance. Whenever the water system is altered, the breach in the pipes to install new features or make repairs is sufficient to allow Legionella to enter the system. You should stay ahead of the minimum required maintenance schedule and take a proactive approach to managing your water system.
Reach Out to an Experienced Legionella Compliance Company
Whether you are in the process of developing a strategy to prevent Legionella or you believe that Legionella is already present in your water system, the best time to reach out to an expert is now. The professionals at Tower Water set the standard in water treatment and would be happy to visit your facility to develop a personalized plan for your cooling towers. Reach out to schedule an appointment with an expert so that you can prevent Legionella from ever becoming an issue and abide by New York City’s regulations for your machinery.