Water is one of the most ubiquitous materials that humans come into contact with on a daily basis. This means that keeping it clean and safe is vital, and as the origin of one of the most deadly outbreaks of Legionella in history, New York has maintained a strong stance on the process of water treatment.
Whether considering wastewater or potable water, there is a comprehensive set of water treatment requirements in NYC that must be followed in order to ensure that the state’s water—which is natural and unfiltered—remains safe for human contact and environmental impact.
Potable Water Requirements
Potable water refers to water that comes into contact with humans and may even be consumed, such as water from faucets and showers. New York City requires that this water be safe for human consumption, which means that regular maintenance must occur in order to avoid outbreaks of bacteria such as E. coli. It is also important that facilities undergo testing for lead and other contaminants that may pose a health risk when consumed in excess.
Many facilities elect to keep their water at high temperatures in order to kill potentially dangerous bacteria in their potable water systems; however, temperatures hot enough to kill microorganisms such as Legionella will also cause scalding and potentially severe injury to human skin. Thus, water temperature is regularly evaluated for potable water as well.
Wastewater Treatment Requirements
Facilities that discharge wastewater will generally be required to apply for a permit to do so. For locations that put out greater than 25,000 gallons/day of wastewater, this application for a permit is mandatory. Some areas may require water pretreatment, such as neutralizing the pH of the water, before it is returned to the city.
Additional Legionella Control Concerns
One of the primary facets of water treatment requirements in NYC is the prevention and inhibition of the Legionella bacteria. This gram negative organism thrives in water roughly at the temperatures at which it is kept most commonly: between 77 degrees Fahrenheit and 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
Both commercial and residential buildings can harbor Legionella, and any machinery that creates mist or vapor can spread it. Cooling towers on commercial buildings are a common offender because they create vapor during the process of heat exchange, but even condensers, hot tubs and fountains may harbor the organisms.
When Legionella, inside water droplets, become airborne, they can travel for as many as three miles from their point of origin. The mucous membranes in the eyes, nose and mouth readily absorb water, providing a pathway for Legionella to enter the human body. Once inside, the bacteria may cause a range of issues, the most minor of which is Pontiac fever.
This sickness typically resembles the flu and is primarily dangerous only to the same populations for which the seasonal flu would be problematic. However, Legionella can also cause Legionnaires’ disease, which results in severe lung inflammation and potentially even death.
Many things can be done to mitigate or prevent the development of Legionella colonies in water, but treatment of Legionella and proof that the methods are working is required in New York City and New York State. All cooling towers are required to be registered with the city and state so that a potential outbreak can be traced as soon as it becomes known.
In addition, water culture analysis must be performed by a New York State Environmental Laboratory Approval Program every 90 days. As for water treatment, one of the most common approaches is to use chlorine dioxide to kill Legionella and other bacteria in the water. The process of hyperchlorination shocks the system with a high dose of chlorine from which Legionella rarely escapes.
However, the regular disinfection of surfaces and the use of biocides (if needed) are required as well in order to remove harmful biological material such as biofilm or algae and prevent Legionella from locating a place to hide. Algae and biological materials provide not only a safe haven from water treatment practices but also nutrients that Legionella need in order to proliferate and cause an outbreak.
Work with the Professional Water Treatment Experts
If you are unsure about the state of your water or if you need assistance understanding the more nuanced water treatment requirements in NYC, it is important that you rely on the help of a professional Legionella mitigation specialist.
The experts at Tower Water set the standard in water treatment and would be happy to help you understand and fulfill your regulatory responsibilities, whether you are struggling with potable water or a cooling tower. Reach out to schedule a consultation to discuss your options and develop a long-term, customized strategy.