NYC Council passes new cooling tower legislation

The New York City Council adopted new cooling tower legislation amid the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Bronx.

The New York City Council adopted new cooling tower legislation amid the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Bronx. (8/13/15)

NEW YORK - The New York City Council adopted new cooling tower legislation amid the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Bronx.

The city previously had no official registry for cooling towers or a system of maintaining them.

Once the law takes effect, building owners with cooling towers will have to register them with the Department of Buildings within 30 days. 

The law requires cooling towers to be inspected every three months. There will also be a method established for testing water for health threats. Its passage makes the city the first in the country to verify the maintenance of its cooling towers. 

The law also requires that if a health threat is detected, owners must report it to the Health Department for cleaning and disinfecting. The Health Department will determine penalties for building owners who do not register their cooling towers or submit annual certificates showing they've been inspected.

Penalties range from fines up to $2,000 for the first violation to $10,000 if anyone is seriously injured as a result of noncompliance.

The legislation comes in the wake of 20 cooling towers testing positive for legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires' disease. However, only 14 of them are in what officials are calling the impact zone. The remaining six are outside that area, and not believed to be linked to the current outbreak.

Health officials say that all 20 sites have either been decontaminated or are currently undergoing the disinfecting process. They remain confident that one of the five locations that initially tested positive for legionella was the source of the outbreak, and that through decontamination, the outbreak has been contained.

There have now been 119 reported cases of Legionnaires', including 12 deaths. Of those, 88 people have made full recoveries.

Another town hall meeting has been scheduled for next Monday at 6 p.m. at Hostos Community College. Experts will be on hand to answer questions about Legionnaires' and provide the latest information on the city's response to the outbreak.

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