The NYC Department of Health has announced a comprehensive plan to reduce the risk of Legionnaires’ disease in New York City. Following the 2015 outbreaks in the South Bronx , Mayor de Blasio passed some of the nation’s toughest regulations on cooling towers. The city is now investing more than $7 million to enforce these regulations.
Local Law 77, which focuses on preventative maintenance of the city’s 5,544 cooling towers, took effect on May 9, 2016. This law requires that cooling towers be registered with the city and that all cooling towers have plans in place to reduce outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. In addition, all towers must now be tested for the Legionella bacteria every 90 days and report their results to the Department of Health.
Routine inspections as well as random, unannounced spot inspections will take place across the city; the inspection schedule prioritizes towers in the South and East Bronx, where the most recent outbreaks took place. Inspections will also focus on high-poverty areas, where infrastructure is often older and residents are as a greater risk of susceptibility to the disease.
The Department of Health has also developed procedures to communicate with residents of affected areas. During suspected outbreaks, the Department will notify residents, staff, landlords, and visitors of affected buildings and provide instructions on how to handle the disease.
The plan also increases collaboration between agencies by creating a database of cooling towers that will be shared with the Department of Buildings. Through this collaboration, the Department of Health and the Department of Buildings will be able to track unregistered cooling towers, review monthly reports on tower inspections, and report violations to the public. Violators will face stiff penalties.
To enforce these regulations, the city has invested over $7 million into staff and inspection teams. The number of inspection teams has increased and staffers from other agencies have been trained and will be available to respond to outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease over the summer. The city has also funded five new lab positions and has made new methods of testing possible.In addition, test results will now be recorded electronically, which will streamline the reporting process.
These preventative regulations are among the toughest in the nation, and response from local officials and and legislators has been positive. The city’s investment comes just in time for summer, when incidence of Legionella infection peaks, and its focus on areas at high risk of infection is commendable. Regulations on cooling towers are a much-needed step toward a comprehensive legislative response to Legionnaires’ disease.
Read more about these regulations, and community response, here.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates on this story.