Regulations that require managers to test cooling towers in New York City have gone into effect as of July 6, 2016. After last year’s deadly South Bronx outbreak, in which 138 residents were sickened and 16 died, investigators determined that a contaminated cooling tower was the source of Legionella bacteria. Emergency regulations were passed requiring property owners to register their buildings and perform tests for Legionella. These temporary measures calmed public concern and created a list of cooling towers in the Bronx area, which will be used by investigators in the future.
Now these measures have been made permanent, and the New York State Department of Health has enacted permanent regulations that govern the safety of cooling towers. Owners of buildings with cooling towers must keep the status of their towers updated in a new statewide electronic system; they must also inspect them prior to seasonal startup and every 90 days when in use. All buildings must also keep an updated maintenance program with a schedule for Legionella testing. When Legionella is found, property managers must notify their local health department within 24 hours and then work with health officials to prevent an outbreak.
New measures have also been put in place to regulate hospitals and residential health care facilities. These measures are especially important, as hospital populations often older and often immunocompromised and therefore at greater risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease. Health facilities must perform an environmental assessment of their buildings and water systems, adopt and implement sampling and management plans, and continue to test for Legionella once every 90 days from now on.
New York’s Legionella containment strategy is an effective template for legislation that could ultimately help prevent Legionnaires’ disease. Cooling towers are only one potential source of the disease, but these regulations are useful guidelines for officials as they draft more comprehensive legislation in the future. The CDC points out that 9 out of 10 outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease were caused by problems that could be prevented with more effective water management. This legislation is a timely and necessary step in right the direction.
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Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.