This past summer New York City experienced the worst Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in its recorded history. In what is now being referred to as the NYC Legionella Outbreak of 2015, more than 130 people were sickened and 16 people tragically died. In an effort to keep the public safe, both the City and State of New York passed emergency legislation designed to regulate the operation and maintenance of cooling towers. Today, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) seeks to make those emergency provisions stronger and lasting; and will hold a public hearing to discuss and pass their newly proposed rules. The hearing will take place from 10AM to 12PM on January 4, 2016 at DOHMH headquarters in Long Island City. Once the hearing is over, the DOHMH will modify the rules based on the public’s feedback, if necessary, and then draft a final version. A copy is then published in the City Record and submitted to the City Council where it will be voted on to become law. This legislation will have an effect on the operation procedures of any building that operates a cooling, as well as the water treatment companies and environmental consulting firms that service them.
CURRENT NYC COOLING TOWER LAW TO COMBAT LEGIONELLA
To deal with the serious issue of legionella in cooling towers, on August 18th, 2015 in New York City, the City Council and Mayor de Blasio enacted Local Law 77 of 2015. Legionnaires’ disease is said to have a case fatality rate of 5-30%. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there were between 8,000 and 18,000 cases of LD in the United States annually, and that more than 10% of cases are fatal. (Learn more here: What is legionella?)
Local Law 77 added a new Article 317 to Title 28 of the Administrative Code that required owners of cooling towers to register them with the Department of Buildings (DOB) by September 17, 2015. Towers must be inspected, tested, cleaned and disinfected in accordance with new Administrative Code §17-194.1 and rules adopted by the DOB. Owners and operators of cooling towers must annually certify to the Department that their cooling towers have been inspected, tested, cleaned and disinfected and that a management and maintenance program has been developed and implemented in accordance with Administrative Code §17-194.1 which includes maintaining a proper cooling tower water treatment program. Statewide, including in New York City, owners of all cooling towers must also comply with New York State Sanitary Code (SSC) Part 4, which includes registration with and reporting requirements to the New York State Department of Health.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH PROPOSED UPDATES TO TITLE 24
Today, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is proposing to add a new Chapter 8 (Cooling Towers) to Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York to establish rules for maintenance of cooling towers to minimize potential contamination by Legionella bacteria to prevent outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. This new Chapter 8 will further the work of Local Law 77, and require building owners to provide cooling tower maintenance and testing records to the NYC Department of Health.
Chapter 8’s provisions that are equivalent to the State Sanitary Code Part 4. This proposed Chapter is organized differently than the State Sanitary Code requirements; more terms are defined in this Chapter and more detailed instructions for management and maintenance are provided than those contained in SSC Part 4 to facilitate compliance with both the City and State rules and requirements.
To ratify these changes, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has issued their Notice of Public Hearing and Opportunity to Comment on Proposed Amendments to Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York. (You can find a link to the DOHMH Notice at the end of this post.)
According to the NYC Rules website, here are the proposed changes to Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York. It adds a new Chapter 8, which includes the following sections:
- 8-01 Scope and applicability: applicable to all owners and operators of buildings and other premises that are equipped with cooling towers.
- 8-02 Definitions: to facilitate compliance with and enforcement of these rules, more terms are defined in this Chapter than in the corresponding sections of either Administrative Code or SSC Part 4.
- 8-03 Maintenance program and plan: the requirements of this section exceed those of SSC Part 4, including specific routine maintenance tasks; identification of persons responsible for various functions; identifying system components; and establishing a system risk management assessment to identify areas that may create problems and lead to proliferation of Legionella bacteria.
- 8-04 Process control measures: this section establishes requirements for routine monitoring, to be conducted at least weekly by a “responsible person” under the supervision – remote or on-site -- of the “qualified person” identified in SSC Part 4, and for compliance inspections, to be conducted at least every 90 days, by the qualified person. It specifies standards for maintenance, cleaning, and parts replacement; and requires installation of high efficiency drift eliminators in all new and retrofitted cooling tower systems and in existing ones, where practicable.
- 8-05 Water treatment: this section specifies requirements for automatic treatments, use of chemicals and biocides, and monitoring water quality characteristics/parameters, and establishes a schedule for sampling for Legionella and other bacteria including requiring additional sampling when certain events occur. This section also mandates the use of certain qualified laboratories for analysis and requires reporting levels of Legionella at a certain magnitude to the Department within 24 hours of obtaining test results; and specifies corrective actions for various levels of bacteria. Although the 2014 New York City Plumbing Code Appendix C authorizes use of rainwater or recycled water as makeup water for cooling towers, it does not require disinfection for Legionella bacteria before use. These rules prohibit such use unless owners use additional control measures approved by the Department that protect against cooling tower system contamination since the Department believes that this water may not meet public health standards and may tend to support microbial growth.
- 8-06 System shutdown and start-up; commissioning new cooling towers: this section sets forth requirements for pre-seasonal cleaning and disinfection and for new cooling towers being placed into use.
- 8-07 Records: this requires the maintenance of records of all activities and that such records be made available for immediate inspection by the Department at the premises where the cooling tower is installed.
- 8-08 Modification: authorizes the Commissioner to modify the application of a provision of these rules where compliance imposes an undue hardship and would not otherwise be required by law, provided that the modification does not compromise public health concerns.
- 8-09 Penalties: establishes a schedule of penalties for initial and subsequent violations within the limits set forth in Administrative Code §17-194.1.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH PUBLIC HEARING ON COOLING TOWER LEGISLATION
The NYC DOHMH will hold a public hearing on these proposed rules. The hearing will take place from 10AM to 12PM on January 4, 2016 at:
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
42-09 28th Street, 14th Floor, Room 14-43
Long Island City, NY 11101-4132
Anyone is permitted to attend the hearing and/or comment on the proposal. The DOHMH has given the following ways to communicate public commentary:
- Website: You can submit comments to the Department through the NYC rules Web site at http://rules.cityofnewyork.us
- Email: You can email written comments to email@example.com
- Mail: You can mail written comments to:
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Office of General Counsel
Attn: Svetlana Burdeynik
42-09 28th Street, 14th Floor
Long Island City, NY 11101-4132
- Fax: You can fax written comments to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at 347-396-6087.
- Speaking at the hearing: Anyone who wants to comment on the proposal at the public hearing must sign up to speak. You can sign up before the hearing by calling at 347-396-6078. You can also sign up in the hearing room before or during the hearing on January 4, 2016. You can speak for up to five minutes.
GET YOUR FREE COPY OF THE FULL NOTICE
If you would like to read the full copy of the DOH’s notice, please fill out the form below for an instant link. This document fully outlines all of the sections of the newly proposed Chapter 8 including the full requirements for maintenance, operation, and ongoing water treatment of cooling towers in New York City. There is no charge for this information and it is freely available online.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Get the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Notice of Public Hearing and Opportunity to Comment on Proposed Amendments to Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York here:
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Clarity Water Technologies is known throughout the east coast as an innovative industrial/commercial water treatment company and the innovators of 360 Degree Legionella Management Service. To put it simply: As New York City's Top Environmental Consultants, we make commercial HVAC and industrial process machinery last longer and run more efficiently, with less fuel and less downtime, by chemically treating the water that runs through it. Typical systems that we treat include steam boilers, chillers and cooling towers; however, we also offer advanced wastewater, glycol services, odor control and fuel treatment services. We are one of Northeast’s most trusted Legionella remediation companies and are widely accepted as one of the best consulting firms to establish best practices for the implementation of ASHRAE Standard 188 - Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems.
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