New cooling towers law seeks to prevent another Legionnaires' outbreak

The City Council unanimously passed a new legislation Thursday to prevent another Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the city.

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

According to the new legislation, 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.

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

Violators of the new law, which Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign as early as next week, could face maximum punishments of $25,000 or up to a year in jail.

The legislation comes in the wake of 20 cooling towers in the Bronx testing positive for Legionella bacteria, however, only 14 of them are in what officials are calling the impact zone. Officials say they still believe that one if not more of the first five sites is the source of the Legionnaires' outbreak. There have now been 119 reported cases of Legionnaires', including 12 deaths. Of those, 88 people have made full recoveries.

Federal health officials say most deaths linked to the disease are tied to the showers in hospitals and nursing homes.

Another town hall meeting has been scheduled for next Monday at 6 p.m. at Hostos Community College.

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