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City gives Legionnaires lessons at new cooling tower academy

The city is set to launch a new cooling tower academy to teach property owners and managers how to test for Legionella bacteria.

The free, two-hour training will help them comply with Local Law 77 of 2015, the nation’s most comprehensive law requiring owners to test their cooling towers for Legionella bacteria on a quarterly basis.

Cooling towers have been associated with two Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks that occurred in the Bronx in 2015. While there have not been any New York City outbreaks since then, a cluster of cases was identified in 2017 in the Lenox Hill section of Manhattan.

The Health Department’s free Cooling Tower Academy is meant to help building owners better understand the law’s requirements and reduce the risk for their communities.

FirstService Residential organized the first trial session in August that drew nearly 400 attendees.

“With 120 cooling tower-equipped buildings in our management portfolio, FirstService Residential is keenly aware of the importance of properly training property managers and building operators to comply with the City’s cooling tower regulations in order to ensure the safety of our residents,” said Dan Wurtzel, president, FirstService Residential.

“We were delighted to organize the Health Department’s inaugural training on this topic which supports our commitment to continuing education on operations and maintenance best practices.”

Last year, the Health Department conducted educational inspections to instruct building owners about proper maintenance and operation of cooling towers to avoid the spread of Legionella bacteria. The Department has routinely met with real estate companies, water treatment firms, and building management and hospital associations to review the requirements for managing risks from cooling towers.

To promote compliance, the Department also distributed information about how to create a Management Program and Plan, how to build a cooling tower system team, and general FAQs. The Department has a dedicated support email where building owners and water treatment firms can submit questions and request guidance.

“A well-maintained cooling tower is critical to reducing the risk of Legionnaires’ disease,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “New York City has the nation’s most comprehensive cooling tower maintenance regulations, which is why education is such a critical component. We are excited to work with property managers to educate them about best practices to prevent the growth of Legionella bacteria.”

The Health Department will hold quarterly training sessions starting in 2018. In addition, property management organizations can coordinate training sessions for their members with the Health Department, so long as those sessions are free and open to the public. The course covers registration requirements, team development, plan development, record keeping, compliance strategies, and the inspection and enforcement process.

To learn more about partnering with the Department to host an information session, email the Cooling Tower Academy at [email protected] .

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