New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced state-wide emergency regulations to stop the spread of Legionnaires’ disease. The new requirements, which take effect immediately, has made it mandatory for building owners to register and test their cooling towers over the next 30 days.
“This summer’s outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease caused concern in communities across the state, and today we are moving forward to help prevent future outbreaks and keep our neighborhoods safe,” Cuomo said in a press release.
“Our new emergency regulations will make sure that building owners live up to their responsibilities and provide health officials with critical information to counter the spread of Legionella bacteria. I want to reassure all New Yorkers: We are addressing the problem at its source and protecting the public health, statewide.”
The latest Legionnaires’ outbreak, which was discovered in July, has been the worst the city has ever experienced. It has affected 124 people, with most of the new cases coming from the Bronx. The area has been identified as the source of the outbreak, with city officials identifying five cooling towers in the area that contained Legionella bacteria.
The new regulations require building owners to register existing cooling towers with the State Department of Health over the next 30 days. All new cooling towers installed after that period must be registered before use.
The new rules also require frequent testing of cooling towers. Building owners must now obtain and test samples over the next 30 days, with tests being repeated every 90 days. It also requires a maintenance program for each building, which outlines things such as routine sampling schedules and procedures for “emergency testing and disinfection.”
“Cooling towers have been implicated in several outbreaks of Legionnaire’s Disease in recent years. When they’re not properly maintained, these cooling towers can cause Legionella overgrowth that leads to Legionnaires’ disease,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, the commissioner of the State Department of Health.
The new rules come after New York City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett issued a directive that required building owners and managers to test and disinfect cooling towers for a two-week period. The order required the hiring of environmental consultants and the disinfection of towers.
“New York City’s Legionnaires’ outbreak is a tragic occurrence that could have been prevented with a regimented maintenance program and a regimented water treatment program,” said Daniel Donnelly, the CEO of HVAC contractor Donnelly Mechanical. Donnelly’s firm, which is offering its services to help building owners avoid penalties, is one of the few companies that may profit from the crisis. According to a New York Times report, the few firms that work with cooling towers have struggled to deal with a surge in orders.
The spread of Legionnaires’ has slowed down over the past two weeks. No new cases have been reported since August 3. The current death toll stands at 12 people, with the last two fatalities coming from the Bronx.