Legionella Prevention: New York Takes Unprecedented Steps to Battle Legionnaires’ Disease

The recent regulations put forth by the State of New York and New York City will incorporate extraordinary measures for cooling tower disinfection, bacteria testing, increased inspections and operational management of cooling water systems.

Water Treatment and Tower Maintenance
Properly maintained cooling towers and evaporative condensers should have a comprehensive water treatment and maintenance plan. Much of the legislation recently enacted in New York directly affects the management of these plans and puts specific requirements in place that must be adhered to.

Critical areas that influence building owners and facility managers with cooling towers:

New York State Regulations:

  • All cooling towers must be registered with the State Health Department (Click here to register with the state)
  • All cooling towers must be sampled and cultured for the presence of bacteria in the next 30 days
  • A cooling tower maintenance plan must be developed
  • All cooling towers must be inspected every 90 days which will include the determination of:
    • The presence of biofilm, organic material, algae and other visible contaminates
    • The general condition of the cooling tower, basin, packing (fill) and drift eliminator
    • Makeup water connections and control (absence of water overflow)
    • Proper function of conductivity control (cycles of concentration)
    • Proper function of chemical inhibitor and biocide dosing equipment
  • Any inspection deficiencies must be recorded and corrected
  • All inspection findings, deficiencies, and corrective actions must reported, recorded and retained, this information must also be reported to the State Health Department
  • Inspections are to be performed by qualified personnel
  • Each year (prior to November 1st), inspection certification must be documented by qualified personnel, certification will include:
    • Visual inspection
    • Cleaning documentation
    • Disinfection documentation review
    • Bacteria testing review
    • Maintenance plan review

New York City Regulations:

  • In addition, New York City local law requires that:
    • All cooling towers be inspected and disinfected before August 27, 2015
    • All cooling towers must be inspected and tested every 3 months
    • All cooling towers in the City are required to be registered by September 27, 2015 (Click Here to Register with the City)
    • If bacteria levels are excessive, they tower must be cleaned and disinfected within 48 hours
    • If bacterial levels pose a serious health threat, the tower must be cleaned and disinfected within 24 hours
    • All cooling towers must be cleaned and disinfected when shut down for more than 5 days

In Both City & State Regulations:

  • By March 1, 2016, maintenance plans must be developed and implemented in accordance with ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188-2015. ASHRAE Standard 188-2015 can be obtained from the ASHRAE website: www.ashrae.org.
  • All water treatment management plans must be located on the premises and be available to the health department immediately upon request.

Effects of Regulations
These new regulations have far reaching implications – primarily on increased maintenance and surveillance for each of these systems.  Each cooling tower owner and manager will have to review their current cooling tower maintenance program, verify compliance with the new regulations and continue to work to the goal of minimizing bacterial activity in these systems.

How Can U.S. Water Help?

USWLegionellaU.S. Water Services, Inc. (U.S. Water), a national water treatment company, has in-depth experience in system disinfections and programs for on-going control of microbiological growth in cooling towers.  Our integrated approach includes treatment chemistry, disinfection protocols, water treatment automation, inspection services and cooling tower cleaning services.

U.S. Water can assist in several of the mandated areas, including the following:

  • Emergency Disinfections
    • EPA Approved Disinfectants
    • State Certified Pesticide Applicators
    • Compliance with State and Local Regulations
  • Physical cleaning of the cooling tower
  • Legionella testing services and analysis review
  • Cooling tower inspection and certification
  • Biocide programs – oxidizing and non-oxidizing
  • Automation and remote monitoring of key water treatment parameters
  • Assistance in ongoing water disinfection management plans
  • Use of our online data management system, U.S. Water Reports™, to maintain records in a single accessible location for management of records for compliance

Whether your facility has a current disinfection strategy or is looking to have an improved Legionella management program, U.S. Water has comprehensive treatment packages that will help your facility stay in regulatory compliance.

Our experienced local field representatives are experts in industrial and commercial water treatment programs and maintain certification for New York Pesticide application. Contact your local U.S. Water Representative for more information.

About Legionella

Bacteria Occurrence
Legionella bacteria exist in the environment; non detectable amounts are in the water we drink every day. This typically poses no health problems unless large concentrations of the bacteria are aerosolized and inhaled deep into the lungs.  The bacteria can concentrate in any water system, provided the right conditions exist, warm temperatures and/or the presence of algae or biofim.  HVAC cooling towers and evaporative condensers provide both potential concentration factors.  Other dynamics for increased bacterial activity, which in extreme cases can lead to contracting Legionnaires’ Disease include persons with depressed immune system, smokers, elderly (+65) and organ transplant patients.

Cooling Tower Connection
Cooling towers remove excess heat from HVAC and process water systems; the medium for this heat transfer is water.  Water is recirculated from the heat generating equipment (condensers) and allowed to cascade through a cooling tower, the process evaporates and cools the water.  The cooled water returns to the condensers and the process repeats -hundreds of times a day.

This creates an ideal environment for bacteria like Legionella to grow and concentrate.  Unless steps are taken to minimize the growth, Legionella (and other bacteria) can amplify to dangerously high levels.

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