Attention NYC Building Owners! The governing bodies of New York City and New York State are requiring all owners of cooling towers to implement a Cooling Tower Maintenance Program and Plan by March 1st, 2016 or face potential fines and penalties. Navigating the City and State laws that require this maintenance plan to be in place may not be easy for some and there is a possibility that many cooling tower owners do not even realize that there are new requirements that need their attention immediately.
Why does New York even have new mandatory requirements for Cooling Towers?
New York City witnessed one of the worst legionella outbreaks in its written history this past summer of 2015. The outbreak was allegedly linked to questionably maintained cooling towers throughout the Bronx section of the City. As a consequence, City and State officials have been working tirelessly to create and implement new laws geared towards cooling tower maintenance intended to keep the public safe. On August 6, 2015, Mary Bassett, the Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, with the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio, issued an emergency order requiring all building owners that owned properties that operated a cooling tower to have them immediately cleaned and disinfected within 14 days.
Before that deadline even arrived, the New York City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio passed Local Law 77 of 2015 (effective August 18, 2015) which required cooling tower owners and operators to register their towers with the City, commit to a comprehensive Cooling Tower Maintenance Program and Plan which includes having them regularly treated, inspected, tested and cleaned, and pass an annual certification.
At the same time, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC) of New York adopted a new Part 4 of Title 10 (Health) of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York on an emergency basis, citing other instances of Legionnaire’s Disease outbreaks and fatalities occurring in other parts of New York State that were believed to be associated with cooling towers. The state’s law also required building owners to register their cooling towers and adopt a comprehensive cooling tower maintenance program and plan - which included having proper cooling tower water treatment, regular inspections, testing and cleanings, as well as an annual certification.
Both the New York City and New York State Cooling Tower Laws cite specific (and hefty) fines and penalties for non-compliance.
Today, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is proposing to add a new Chapter 8 to Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York that would further enhance and fortify the requirements outlined in Local Law 77.
Here are some of the highlights of Local Law 77:
- Registration of New and Existing Equipment
Cooling Tower registration is mandatory. New cooling towers, fluid coolers and evaporative condensers must be registered with the Department of Buildings prior to initial operation. Existing cooling towers were required to be registered online by September 17th, 2015, within 30 days of the law’s enactment. Any building owner that that did not register their cooling tower is, according to Local Law 77, technically out of compliance. (New York State’s State Sanitary Code Part 4 also required a separate registration on their state-run website. So to be clear: Yes, if you own a cooling tower in New York City, you MUST register it on BOTH the New York CITY and the New York STATE cooling tower registration websites.)
Mandatory regular inspection, testing, cleaning and disinfection of cooling towers, in accordance with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) regulations, is required. The current laws call for various levels of weekly, quarterly and yearly inspections that must be carried out by individuals that are qualified to perform NYC cooling tower inspections.
- Cooling Tower Maintenance Program and Plan
Building owners shall implement a Maintenance Program and Plan for their cooling towers that are in accordance with sections 5, 6, and 7.2 of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers Standard 188 for the year 2015 (ASHRAE 188-2015) and with manufacturer’s instructions. Such program and plan shall be developed by a qualified person, which may include environmental consultants, legionella prevention specialists and water treatment companies. A comprehensive Water Management Plan for each Cooling Tower in New York City must be implemented by March 1st, 2016. (This document is also often referred to a Water Management Plan (WMP), and if you don’t have one yet, there is a link at the bottom of this post where you can get a free estimate.)
- Cleaning and Disinfection
At a minimum, an owner shall clean and disinfect cooling towers that are shut-down for more than five days. Cleaning and disinfection shall occur within 15 days before the use of such tower. This must be performed under the supervision of a Certified and Licensed New York Commercial Pesticide Applicator. They must hold a current 7G Commercial Pesticide Applicator License.
- Annual Certification
Building owners and property managers must annually certify with the DOHMH that cooling towers have been inspected, tested, cleaned and disinfected in compliance with Local Law 77 of 2015. The first Annual Cooling Tower Certification must be submitted by November 1, 2016 and then by November 1st of each year thereafter, or as otherwise specified in the rules of the Department. Certifications must be performed by qualified environmental consultants or the equivalent.
- Discontinuance of Use
Building owners MUST provide the DOHMH notification of cooling tower removal or permanent discontinued use within 30 days after removal/discontinuation; the notice must include a statement verifying the cooling tower was drained and sanitized in compliance with DOHMH requirements.
Failure to register, submit annual certification or report discontinued use shall result in the issuance of a violation punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000.
If a building owner does not clean and disinfect a cooling tower within the time and manner set forth in Local Law 77, the DOHMH may serve an order on the owner requiring compliance within a specified time. If such order is not complied with, the Department may authorize any agency of the city to act as agent of the Department in executing such order and may recover the costs of such execution from the owner.
If a building owner disregards a DOHMH order to clean and disinfect their cooling tower, it shall be considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 or imprisonment for up to one year, or both!
If you are the owner of a building that is currently running a cooling tower, these new rules may seem overwhelming, but according to amendments that are currently being proposed by the DOHMH to Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York (RCNY), they could potentially get even more overwhelming.
How is the DOHMH proposing to amend RCNY Title 24?
When Local Law 77 was enacted on August 18th, 2015 there were some sections of the law that needed to be fulfilled immediately; for instance, the new law required every building owner to register their cooling towers by September 17th, 2015 and have a Maintenance Program and Plan (Water Management Plan) in place by March 1st, 2016 or face steep penalties, but many of the other sections of Local Law 77 are supposed to “take effect upon the promulgation of Rules by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene” as per Section 4 of the law.
Those Sections are:
§28-317.4 Inspecting, cleaning, disinfecting and testing.
§17-194.1 Sections e. through i.
- Minimum requirements for inspections and testing.
- Inspections, cleaning and disinfection.
Section 4 of Local Law 77 states that the new law takes effect immediately, except “Section 28-317.4 of the administrative code,” and “subdivisions e, f, g, h and i of section 17-194.1 of the administrative code, as added by section two of this local law, shall take effect upon the promulgation of Rules by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.”
Technically, a promulgation of the Rules would simply require that the DOHMH make the rules public. Local Law 77 doesn’t say anything about the DOHMH’s Rules being “approved” by any other governing agency. It just says that they need to be promulgated which means to be made public.
On November 20th, 2015, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene filed a proposed resolution to add a new Chapter 8 to Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York which would establish ongoing rules for the maintenance of cooling towers to prevent contamination from legionella bacteria. A public hearing to discuss the terms of this resolution was held on January 4th, 2016. This public hearing was technically a “promulgation” of the rules. So, in our opinion, an argument can be made that the DOHMH has now put forth all the requirements of compliance for Local Law 77, and that to not adhere to them could potentially leave a cooling tower owner open to liability.
UPDATE: We reached out to the DOHMH, and they confirmed that their draft of the new Chapter 8 has not yet been made into law, but that it would be reasonable to suggest that, as prudent use of their time/resources, cooling tower owners may want to develop maintenance plans and procedures that are consistent with the DOHMH draft regulation. The final rules will be substantively the same as those published for comment, with only a few changes.
The DOHMH’s resolution was a 19 page document that further established the specific requirements to comply with the rules set forth in Local Law 77 of 2015. Sections of the New Title 24 Chapter 8 include much more detailed requirements for creating and maintaining a Cooling Tower Maintenance Program and Plan, Process Control Measures, ongoing Cooling Tower Water Treatment and Testing Requirements.
Is the DOHMH’s newly proposed Chapter 8 to Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York in effect today?
At the time of this post, Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York do yet not reflect the new changes to Chapter 8, however, Local Law 77 does not specifically state that it has to in order for them to be official. One interpretation could be that the DOHMH’s recommendations just had to be made public… which (technically) they were, via a public hearing held on January 4th, 2016. You can see the current version Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York here: http://rules.cityofnewyork.us/codified-rules?agency=DOHMH
If you want to err on the safe side, you may want to consider having the finer points of DOHMH’s newly proposed Chapter 8 to Title 24 incorporated into your Cooling Tower Maintenance Program and Plan. As spring nears, we hope to have more specific direction from the DOHMH in the next coming weeks, so stay tuned.
What are the barebones requirements that I need to have in place for the March 1st Deadline?
At the very least, you should have your Cooling Tower Maintenance Program and Plan in place as per Local Law 77. This is a comprehensive Water Management Plan specifically written and designed for your cooling tower system. Since every building, make up water source, and cooling tower system is different, there is no boilerplate or “off-the-shelf” plan that you can just purchase. It must be designed for you by a “Qualified person.” If you need assistance in procuring your Cooling Tower Maintenance Program and Plan by March 1st, 2016, please feel free to contact us through the link below.
Additionally, you should also make sure that your cooling tower is cleaned in accordance with Local Law 77 of 2015. At a minimum, cooling towers that are shut-down for more than five days must be cleaned and disinfected under the supervision of a Licensed New York Commercial Pesticide Applicator within 15 days before their use. A list of qualified New York cooling tower cleaning service providers can be found at NYC.gov.
GET YOUR FREE QUOTE FOR A COOLING TOWER MAINTENANCE PROGRAM & PLAN HERE
What should I do if I really want to protect myself from liability?
Regardless of whether or not the DOHMH’s proposed Title 24 Chapter 8 to the Rules of the City of New York is adopted exactly as proposed, cooling tower owners are still required annually certify with the DOHMH that their cooling towers have been inspected, tested, cleaned and disinfected in compliance with Local Law 77. So in addition to having your Maintenance Program and Plan in place, you may also want to consider adopting some of the practices outlined in the DOHMH’s proposed Title 24 Chapter 8 to the Rules of the City of New York. Namely, the daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly testing, inspection and recording schedule.
Understanding basic cooling tower maintenance and testing is never a bad idea for building owners and daily and weekly testing and recording can be pretty easily accomplished by existing maintenance staff.
Get the Cheat Sheet for New York City’s DOHMH’s proposed testing and certification schedule here: New York Cooling Tower Compliance Cheat Sheet
Where do I get the testing supplies that I need to perform the NYC testing requirements for cooling towers?
Cooling tower water quality and microbial testing supplies can usually be purchased from an industrial water testing supply company. The challenge is in knowing exactly what to buy and how to use it. There are many tests out there that show the same kind of results; some are easy to use, some are more difficult. Some are low cost, some are more expensive.
Need a low cost, headache free daily, weekly, quarterly and annual cooling tower testing solution?
Check out our Cooling Tower Compliance Testing Kit. It gives you everything that you need to perform and record the DOHMH’s recommended daily cooling tower water quality test and weekly microbial tests. It also has all the information you need to perform your 90-Day legionella testing and annual certifications for an additional low fee. Don’t waste time and money sourcing the required tests on your own. These are easy to perform and read and will take just a few minutes per day. Our kit includes easy-to-follow instructions and everything that you need to test and record pH, Conductivity, Temperature, Free and Total Chlorine on a daily basis and weekly microbial count - as per New York City’s DOHMH’s proposed Title 24 Chapter 8 - for up to 6 months!
Reserve your test kit here: Link to Clarity’s New York Cooling Tower Compliance Test Kit
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As always, thank you for reading!
ABOUT CLARITY WATER TECHNOLOGIES
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.
As environmental consultants specializing in water treatment, we know that chemistry is only one part of what makes a cooling tower system operate at peak performance. The other part of the equation is proper physical cleaning, disinfection and maintenance. Today, Clarity offers one of the most reliable and effective cooling tower disinfection services available throughout NY, NJ, CT, DE, MD and PA. Clarity is a NADCA Certified HVAC Cleaning Service Company. Our team also offers on-line cleanings, chlorine dioxide disinfection, Legionella remediation and installation of the EcoSAFE Solid Feed System—one of the most advanced water treatment systems for Cooling Towers in the world! Please contact us today for a free estimate on your next project.
New York City Water Treatment Expert and Environmental Consultant, Greg Frazier has a vast knowledge of Industrial Water Treatment and is currently the Managing Partner of Clarity Water Technologies, one of the best Environmental Consulting firms in New York. Mr. Frazier has over 19 years of Industrial Water Treatment experience and holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Tennessee. Clarity Water Technologies specializes in comprehensive water treatment services. Clarity's service goes far beyond administering Cooling Tower Water Treatment chemicals - it also includes Cooling Tower Maintenance and HVAC Cleaning Services.