Governor Cuomo Announces Statewide Emergency Regulations to Combat Legionnaires' Disease

Governor Cuomo announced that emergency regulations have been adopted by the State Department of Health to prevent the spread of Legionella bacteria and protect New Yorkers from future outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease.

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Albany, NY - August 17, 2015 - Governor Cuomo announced that emergency regulations have been adopted by the State Department of Health to prevent the spread of Legionella bacteria and protect New Yorkers from future outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. These first-of-their-kind statewide regulations take effect immediately. The framework for these emergency regulations was drafted in consultation with the New York City Mayor’s Office and City Council representatives.

Additionally, the Governor announced that the Department of Health has launched a general tip line (1-888-769-7243) to respond to questions or inquiries regarding the regulations from members of the public, as well as engineers, technologists and technicians.

“This summer’s outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease caused concern in communities across the state, and today we are moving forward to help prevent future outbreaks and keep our neighborhoods safe,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our new emergency regulations will make sure that building owners live up to their responsibilities and provide health officials with critical information to counter the spread of Legionella bacteria. I want to reassure all New Yorkers: We are addressing the problem at its source and protecting the public health, statewide.”

Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner of the State Department of Health, said, “Cooling towers have been implicated in several outbreaks of Legionnaire’s Disease in recent years. When they’re not properly maintained, these cooling towers can cause Legionella overgrowth that leads to Legionnaire’s disease. These new regulations will help prevent that and safeguard the health of all New Yorkers, especially those who are vulnerable to Legionella.”

The new statewide regulations require registration, testing, inspection, and certification of cooling towers. The regulations mandate timeframes and processes for each of these requirements. All building owners must use a statewide electronic system to register and to report actions required by the new regulations.

A summary of the new regulations is available below:

Definition & Registration– The new regulations define a cooling tower as a tower, evaporative condenser or fluid cooler that is part of a recirculated water system incorporated into a building’s cooling, industrial process, refrigeration or energy production system. Any owner of a building with an existing cooling tower must register the tower with the State Department of Health within the next 30 days. Thereafter, all new cooling towers must be registered prior to initial operation. There is no cost to register a cooling tower with the State.

Culture Sample Testing & Tower Disinfection–Any owner of a building with a cooling tower must collect samples and obtain culture testing within the next 30 days. Thereafter, testing must be performed every 90 days, or in accordance with a maintenance program and plan obtained by the building owner. Immediate disinfection is required if culture sample testing demonstrates a need.

Maintenance Program & Plan– Any owner of a building with a cooling tower must obtain and implement a maintenance program and plan by March 1, 2016. The plan must include a schedule for routine sampling, as well as procedures for emergency testing and disinfection to destroy Legionella bacteria. Owners must maintain a copy of the plan on the premises where a cooling tower is located, and make it available immediately upon request.

Inspection & Certification– All cooling towers must be inspected within the next 30 days, and thereafter every 90 days. All cooling towers must be certified as complying with all regulatory requirements by November 1, 2016, and thereafter annually by November 1 of each year.

Electronic Registration & Reporting– Registration of cooling towers will be through a statewide electronic system. In addition to registration, all actions required by the new regulations must be reported to the electronic system, within 10 days of such actions being taken.

Enforcement & Penalties – An officer, employee or agent of the Department or local health department may enter onto any property to inspect the cooling tower for compliance with the requirements of the regulation. If an owner does not properly register, certify, inspect, clean or disinfect their cooling tower the Department or local health department may determine that such condition constitutes a nuisance and may take such action as authorized by law.

A violation of the regulations is subject to civil and criminal penalties, and each day that an owner remains in violation of any provision constitutes a separate and distinct violation of the provision.

These emergency regulations are in effect for 90 days, at which point they will be adopted into permanent regulations. During the 90 day time period the regulations can be amended before they become permanent.

The Department of Health will assist building owners and managers in obtaining information and assistance. The following links may also be of assistance in obtaining information about professionals who may be eligible to work with building owners and managers in meeting the requirements in the regulations: