Law Regulating Cooling Towers Signed after Outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease


Image Courtesy of The office of Public Advocate for the City of New York

Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed a new law that will regulate cooling towers throughout New York City after a deadly outbreak of legionnaire’s disease killed twelve people in the Southern Bronx district.

The emergency regulation was announced on Monday, and will require building owners that have cooling towers to register with the state health department in a month. The law now requires stricter checking for signs of Legionella bacteria, and requires immediate disinfection if found to be harboring the deadly bacteria.

An Unprecedented Law

The new regulations are an unprecedented law in the history of NYC and come as a surprise to many considering the lack of outbreaks of the disease in the state’s history. Legionella bacteria in air conditioning cooling towers in the South Bronx area caused the recent outbreak, which infected over 124 and killed twelve people. The new laws will now require building owners thirty days to register their cooling towers to undergo inspection. Those who don’t comply will face up to $25,000 in fines.

Regarding the stricter regulations, de Blasio comments, “This law changes the future of how the city of New York contends with this disease. And it served as a model for the new statewide regulations that we just formalized.”

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Legionella bacteriaAndrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, released a similar mandate throughout the entire state that also requires business owners to register, test, and inspect their cooling towers. “This summer’s outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease,” he said, “caused concern in communities across the state and today, we are moving forward to help prevent future outbreaks and keep our neighborhoods safe.”

He also notes that employees of state or local health departments will be able to carry out the inspections of the cooling towers. These new rules, his office explains, will ensure that building owners will strictly abide and fulfill their responsibilities, as well as provide necessary information to help combat the spread of the deadly bacteria.

De Blasio comments that by November 1, all cooling towers would have been certified. The city council is presently working together with business owners to identify and disinfect every cooling tower as precaution to curb the potential spread of the outbreak.

The first recorded outbreak of the disease occurred back in 1976, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over 221 members of the Legionnaire’s convention that was held at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel contracted the disease from the air-conditioning, killing 34 people. The US Centers for Disease Control notes that the bacteria thrive in warm water that is usually found in cooling towers and large plumbing systems.

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