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Protection Against Legionella - New York State’s Emergency Regulations Concerning Cooling Towers

Written by  Rick Clonan

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The recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in New York City has been traced to cooling towers, and in response the New York State Department of Health (DOH) has approved emergency regulations requiring any owner of a cooling tower in the state to register, inspect and implement a maintenance program for their tower(s). The regulations were adopted August 17, 2015 and remain in effect for 90 days, after which they will be adopted as permanent regulations. During the 90 day period the regulations may be amended before they become permanent. Some of the specifics of this new regulation include the following:

  • Definition: A cooling tower is defined as "a tower, evaporative condenser or fluid cooler that is part of a recirculated water system incorporated into a building’s cooling, industrial process, refrigeration or energy production system."
  • Registration: Your cooling tower needs to be registered on-line with DOH by Wednesday September 16, 2015 (30 days after the regulation was approved). Registration requires that you provide specific information about the tower and its maintenance.
  • Inspections: Owners must have their cooling tower inspected by a credentialed individual by September 16, 2015, and every 90 days thereafter while the tower is in use. Inspections must be performed by a NYS licensed professional engineer, a certified industrial hygienist, a certified water technologist or an environmental consultant with trai
    ning and experience performing inspections pursuant to the current industry standard protocols including, but not limited to, ASHRAE 188-2015.
  • Testing: Owners must collect samples and obtain culture testing of the water in the cooling tower by September 16, 2015, and every 90 days thereafter while the tower is in use. Depending on the results of the tests, immediate disinfection may be required.
  • Cleaning: Cooling towers need to be cleaned and disinfected whenever they’re shut down for more than 5 days.
  • Annual Certification: Each year Owners must obtain a certification from their credentialed inspector that the cooling tower was inspected, tested, cleaned and disinfected in compliance with this new regulation. The first certification is due no later than November 1, 2015, and will be required by November 1 of each year thereafter. Certifications shall be reported to DOH.
  • Maintenance Program: By March 1, 2016, building owners must implement a maintenance program containing a schedule for routine sampling and procedures for emergency testing and disinfection to destroy Legionella bacteria.
  • Enforcement: The new regulation will be enforced by the state and local departments of health. Violations will be subject to both civil and criminal penalties. An officer, employee or agent of NYSDOH or local DOH may enter any property to inspect cooling towers for compliance with the requirements of the regulation.
  • Hospitals and Residential Health Care Facilities: In addition to the cooling tower requirements outlined above, health care facilities will also need to adopt a Legionella sampling plan for their potable water systems, and report results to DOH.

In addition to requesting either internal or external resources to inspect and maintain your cooling towers, it is good practice to build an automated PM schedule in order to ensure that specific tasks are tracked, assigned, and not forgotten.  Q Ware CMMS has the perfect solution to help ensure that a Cooling Tower Maintenance Program is automated and ready for audit.  Visit Q Ware for more information on how we can help you build a program tailored for your needs.

Topics: Industry News