The First Cooling Tower Regulation to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreaks

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New York is leading the way to prevent Legionnaires’ disease. In August of this year, Governor Cuomo of New York addressed a growing issue across the country- the spread of Legionella bacteria.

This is the first regulation in the country to mandate that all cooling towers across the state must be registered, inspected and tested to help prevent the spread of Legionella bacteria. The new law even sets a numeric limit where disinfection is required. This emergency health regulation comes after 12 people died and at least 124 people were infected with the bacteria in the South Bronx. It’s arguably the worst outbreak of Legionnaries’ disease in the history of New York.

Building owners that have an existing cooling tower now have 30 days to register the tower with the State Department of Health. They must collect samples and do culture testing as well. Hospitals and even nursing homes must have their cooling towers tested for Legionella and concentrations above 100 CFU/mL have to be immediately disinfected with follow up testing afterward. Re-testing must be performed every 90 days.

According to the new regulation, building owners with an existing cooling tower must register the tower with the State Department of Health within the next 30 days. The owners are also required to collect samples and conduct culture testing within the same time frame.  Additionally, the cooling towers in nursing homes and hospitals must also be tested for Legionella. Concentrations above 100 CFU/mL must be disinfected immediately with subsequent Legionella testing required. Once the cooling tower is under control, testing must be performed every 90 days.

Some experts agree that testing the towers to prevent outbreaks is an excellent first step, but this step doesn’t go far enough. The CDC released a study recently in the Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report where they indicated that it was actually the drinking water rather than the cooling towers that are responsible for around 66% of Legionella outbreaks and 26% of the 431 cases studied. The general opinion seems to be that testing all of the water sources would be the most logical step.

Biosource provides several options for cleaning water cooling towers and other open recirculating cooling water systems. We have 38Na or Wintrol® which is a unique “Super Azole Mix”. This product has been developed as a corrosion inhibitor for aqueous applications. Wintrol® is highly effective in cooling tower applications with high corrosive environments. The use of “The Copper Bullet” blend is appropriate for several applications including closed loop systems, metal working fluids, engine coolants and more.

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