Water Treatment Wisdom: Bioslime in a Cooling Tower is Bad

Cooling towers are notorious for growing things; especially microscopic things…  they are warm and moist. They have areas that get a lot of sunlight and other areas that kept fairly dark. Whether it’s algae or bacteria, it’s no wonder that cooling towers provide the perfect environment for all kinds of little organisms to proliferate. In fact, an improperly treated cooling tower can act like a giant Petri dish.

So what’s a couple hundred million microscope critters living in your tower mean anyway? It’s not such a big deal, right? A little bleach will keep them at bay, right?

WRONG!

The truth is that those little organisms can be much more of a liability than you think. Most facility operation managers are well versed in or have at least heard of the dangers of waterborne pathogens, like legionella, emanating from their cooling towers; it is why most facility managers find water treatment companies that provide water treatment services for their main water systems. While legionella presents a worst case scenario, it is not the only bug that can cause major operational issues in a cooling tower, and is why proper tower water treatment is so important to the overall operational health of a cooling tower system.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188-2015, Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems has major potential impacts on how building owners need to think about legionella in their water systems.

Almost all bacteria have one thing in common… they really, really, really want to live! And they will do whatever they can to protect themselves. One of the clever things they do, especially in water, is to band together and produce a slimy matrix that covers them while they breed and grow. This material is actually quite resistant to most biocides. It is technically called biofilm, but many people also refer to it as bioslime (because hey, it’s slimey!) and if you have it in your tower, you probably have other issues.

One thing about bioslime that many people do not realize is that it acts as an incredibly good insulator. When you get bioslime on an active heat transfer surface, like on inside surfaces of the tubes of a chiller, it becomes harder and harder to produce chilling. In fact, a bioslime layer that is less than one fifth of one millimeter thick can impede heat transfer by more than 10%! That means that you will have to use more energy to produce the proper levels of cooling. In a larger chiller system that could mean tens of thousands of dollars in wasted energy… all because of a little slime in the towers.

Water Treatment Fun Fact: There are no issues with bioslime in boiler water treatment. The heat inside a boiler is typically way too hot to allow biological growth. The kind of issues that plague boilers are usually scale and/or corrosion related.

Check out this short video to see what bioslime is all about:

So what should I do about bioslime in my cooling tower?

The most important thing you can do is keep your cooling tower clean and make sure that your water treatment professional is aware of any issues that you see. Sometime it might not seem like you have a problem, but the best way to tell in not with your eyes. Even if the water looks completely clear, put on a rubber glove and run your hand over part of the cooling tower basin. If the basin feels “slick” or “slimy” you almost certainly have bioslime in your tower.

Options for removing bioslime vary from system to system, but it is almost always a good idea to get your water treatment professional involved and possible even employ the help of a reputable HVAC Cleaning company. Ongoing proper water treatment is the only way to prevent bioslime from ever forming. Your water treatment service provider should be able to describe their methods for keeping biological growth under control in your cooling tower.

Current industry standards dictate the use of a three chemistry system for cooling towers:

  1. An oxidizing biocide –  kills microorganisms by destroying their cell walls and oxidizing protein within the organism. Chlorine is an example of an oxidizing biocide.
  2. A non-oxidizing biocide –  kills by ways other than oxidation, including interference with cell metabolism and structure; more like a poison. DBNPA and isothiazoline are non-oxidizing biocides.
  3. A corrosion inhibitor –  provides protection to the metal surfaces against corrosion. Especially helps counteract the corrosive properties of the oxidizing biocide.

This standard water treatment protocol for cooling towers is often referred to as a “dual biocide program” because to the two biocides used, and it is still considered the best defense against microbiological growth in a cooling tower.

EcoSafe powered by Smart ReleaseThe latest advancements that have been made in the standard dual alternating biocide program doesn’t actually change the chemistry much at all, but instead changes the way in which those chemicals are fed into the cooling tower system. Most water treatment companies rely on liquid chemicals which are pumped into the open condenser system via chemical metering pumps. Up until now, the benefit to this type of system was precise control over the dosage rates of each chemical via highly calibrated, electronic metered pumps.

Today, there are highly improved solid feed delivery systems that use dry chemistry to achieve the same level of control without the headaches and safety issues of liquid chemistry. These newer types of solid feed systems, like EcoSafe Solid Feed System powered by Smart Release, have all but completely revolutionized the way that we treat cooling towers today.

If you would like more information about what to do if you have bioslime in your cooling tower, please do not hesitate to call us!

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Environmentally Friendly Cooling Tower Water Treatment Chemicals

Cooling towers have been in the news a lot lately. Always on the search for the best water treatment solutions, many building engineers and facilities management professionals have been anxiously awaiting ASHRAE Standard 188 to be officially released so that they can get more guidance (and see the implications) regarding the need for proper cooling tower maintenance, cooling tower disinfection and how to kill legionella in a cooling tower.

When it comes to cooling tower chemicals, there is no one size fits all solution; but for the right situation there is one option that is proving to have many significant advantages over the competition. Enter the EcoSafe Solid Feed System for Cooling Towers powered by Smart Release®. The EcoSafe Solid Feed System is doing for cooling towers, what rubber tires did for the automobile industry –  making them safer, more efficient and easier to maintain.

EcoSafe Smart Release Solid Feed System for Cooling TowersEcoSafe is a full water treatment feed station for cooling towers that features specially designed feeders and chemicals that eliminate the need for liquid chemistry. The major difference between EcoSafe and traditional solid feed water treatment options is that EcoSafe’s scale and corrosion inhibitor tablets are truly dry (not a paste), they do not require mixing and are engineered to offer many eco-friendly advantages over traditional liquid water treatment including reduced toxicity. In fact, while you may be hesitant to plunge your bare hand into a typical drum of liquid corrosion or scale inhibitor, you could easily hold a handful of EcoSafe inhibitor in your hand. These tablets are less toxic than Asprin, and they do not require pH altering additives to stabilize their chemistry.EcoSafe Osmotic Pressure Illustration

The secret lies in the coating of the tablet. The tablet is polymer coated and acts in very much the same way as time-released medicine. When in use, EcoSafe’s membrane coating allows water into the tablet, where it creates a concentrated chemical slurry which is then pushed out of the membrane via osmotic pressure. This happens slowly over time allowing for a very consistent release rate and virtually eliminates high chemical spikes which are often associated with other dry chemical feed applications. This coating also acts as a barrier between users and the active EcoSafe chemistry inside. Therefore, EcoSafe tablets are extremely safe to handle, and the potential for hazardous chemical spills is completely eliminated.

Sometime a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is a great video that shows what EcoSafe and Smart Release Technology is and how it works:

Is EcoSafe environmentally friendly?

There is a beautiful elegance to an EcoSafe Solid Feed System. It requires no energy to run. Properly installed EcoSafe feeders are easily plumbed into your existing system and water flows through them. As the water flows through the feeders, the exact amount of chemical needed to treat the system is released into the flow. No measuring. No guessing. No calculating. All that extra work has already been done…  and no additional fuel consumption, which means lower CO2 footprint.

Requiring no electricity to operate is only the tip of the iceberg in reducing the overall carbon footprint of your cooling tower’s chemical feed station. No more liquids means no more heavy polyethylene drums lying around your mechanical room. And no water to ship means that, in many cases, total shipping weights can be reduced by over 600lbs during every 30 day period. That means reduced shipping costs with better shipping and storage options. EcoSafe chemicals are generally shipped in cardboard boxes, which are lightweight and 100% recyclable. The elimination of the polyethylene drum and the huge decrease shipping weight means less fossil fuels are being consumed to deliver the same amount of protection to your cooling towers. And while there is really no such thing as 100% ecofriendly water treatment chemicals that we know of, using an EcoSafe Solid Feed System does reduce a typical liquid water treatment program’s carbon footprint by over 73%! That is a big deal; especially if your facility has made a commitment to the environment and sustainability.

This huge reduction in carbon footprint is one way in which EcoSafe Solid Feed System for Cooling Towers is helping some buildings qualify for additional LEED points.

What about biocides?

A widely accepted modality of cooling tower water treatment is running a dual (or alternating) biocide program. This means that the chemical program being administered calls for an oxidizing biocide and a non-oxidizing biocide. Oxidizing biocides kill microorganisms by destroying their cell walls and oxidizing protein within the organism. Typical examples of oxidizing biocides are chlorine and bromine. Non-oxidizing biocides are chemicals that kill by ways other than oxidation, including interference with cell metabolism and structure. DBNPA and isothiazoline are examples of non-oxidizing biocides. EcoSafe allows for a dual biocide program; and biocide canisters are available in various forms and sizes depending on the application.

EcoSafe Tablets and Canister

EcoSafe biocides are delivered in much the same way as the corrosion inhibitors; however they are not pressed into tablet form. They are delivered in granular form via a specially designed canister or feeder. Since they are also shipped dry, they are highly concentrated and are a very effective method to reduce biological organisms in cooling water. In fact, if you have been trying to figure out how to kill legionella in a cooling tower or wondering what a long term strategy is for keeping bio-organisms like legionella at bay in your cooling tower might be, look no further than EcoSafe.

One last point –  while EcoSafe is a potential no brainer for many (if not most) cooling tower water treatment solutions, it is definitely not the solution for everyone. Most of the limitations regarding EcoSafe have to do with the overall size of the operation; however, we have seen success with smart release water treatment on many very large cooling tower systems.

If you would like more information regarding the EcoSafe Solid Feed System for Cooling Towers, please do not hesitate to contact us. You may also download our free whitepaper “Why Solid Feed Water Treatment is the Future.” It contains a ton of great information about EcoSafe and the future of cooling tower water treatment.

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Why Solid Feed for Cooling Tower Maintenance is the Future!

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Your Slimy Cooling Tower is Costing You More Than You Think!

Do you think that your cooling tower is dirty? If you have biofilm in your cooling tower, bad things are already happening. For certain, your HVAC system is losing efficiency and you are losing money; but it is possible that there are bigger issues lurking just beneath that slime.
 

What is Biofilm

Sometimes also referred to as “bioslime,” biofilm is actually a matrix of polysaccharides and proteins that is secreted by microorganisms that allows them to adhere to a surface and protect themselves from elements that may harm them. Scientists call this matrix “Extracellular Polymeric Substances” or EPS, but if you’ve ever felt it, you might just call it “slime.”

Many biofilms have some interesting properties that make them something that you should be concerned about, especially in a cooling tower. Here is a short list:

1. Biofilm has incredible insulating properties, meaning that it greatly impedes heat transfer. In fact, in the case of a cooling tower, biofilm impedes heat transfer even more than scale deposition does!

2. Biofilm is produced by microorganisms. They produce the biofilm so that they thrive within or underneath it, and some of these microorganisms can be quite nasty. Some sulfite reducing bacteria can cause significant corrosion in your HVAC system. Legionella in a cooling tower produces a biofilm to protect itself; and legionella is the bacterium that is responsible for Legionnaires’ disease, a nefarious and potentially deadly form of pneumonia.

3. Due to their physiochemical properties, biofilms are extremely resistant to biocides. This means that simply increasing the amount of biocide in your water treatment is usually not enough to disinfect your cooling tower.

Want to learn more? Check out this awesome biofilm explainer video:

The Cost of Biofilm in Your Cooling Tower

While every situation and cooling tower system is different, we can make some approximations as to what not getting rid of the biofilm in your tower system will cost you.

1. Loss of efficiency – As I mentioned earlier, biofilm is an amazing insulator. If biofilm takes hold in your chiller tubes you will lose efficiency. A biofilm layer that is less than one fifth of one millimeter thick can reduce efficiency by more than 10%! In a 1000 ton chiller system that could mean the loss of tens of thousands of dollars in wasted energy.

2. Potential serious damage – Some biofilms are caused by sulfite-reducing or iron-depositing bacteria. These types of bacteria can destroy steel. We have seen severe cases where sulfite-reducing bacteria have destroyed 1 inch thick steel tube plates of chillers that were in service for less than 18 months. The cost to the facility was a complete re-tubing of two chillers. The facility was not prepared for this extreme maintenance cost or consequent down time.

3. Unnecessary and profound liability – Biofilms in your tower could indicate that you have a far more ominous issue like a water-borne pathogen. Legionella is one of the most ominous in this category. Legionella bacteria are responsible for causing Legionnaires’ Disease, a potentially deadly form of pneumonia. If you tower is located in an area that is close enough to send mist into a populated area, you have a potentially huge liability on your hands. Anyone that is immunocompromised is at a much greater risk of developing Legionnaires’ Disease from an infected cooling tower. These include the very old, the very young or someone who is already fighting an infection. Facility operators that take care of cooling towers at senior living centers or hospitals should be on constant alert for Legionella in their systems.

How to Remove Biofilm from Your Cooling Tower

There are many options to consider when fighting biofilm in your cooling tower system. Usually it is not enough to merely increase your biocides; and in some cases, that could actually cause more harm than good. While preventing biofilm from forming in the first place is always preferable, there are a few steps that you take if you feel that you have a problem.

1. First, determine if there might be a problem. Just because you cannot see a biofilm, does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Even if your cooling tower water is completely clear, you could still have an issue. You can try putting on a rubber glove and running your hand just under the water line in your cooling tower’s basin. If it feels slick or slimy, you have probably have a biofilm problem.

2. Let your water treatment service provider know that there is potential issue. Many times they can adjust the water treatment program to avoid further problems. They may also be able to perform a full system disinfection for you.

3. Many times biofilm needs to be physically disturbed, or broken up, to be effectively destroyed. That means a physical cleaning could be in order. Contact a reputable HVAC Cleaning Company in your area to evaluate your specific situation. Make sure they follow all safety protocols. Not sure if you have the best HVAC Cleaning Company for the job? Download our free eBook below –  “Top Five Tips for Choosing the Best HVAC Cleaning Company.”

4. There are advanced methods now available to make the disinfection process closer to 100% effective. Some top HVAC Cleaning Companies and some innovative Water Treatment Service Companies have these tools at their disposal. One such method is the use of chlorine dioxide, which has proven to be one of the best and least destructive methods of advanced disinfection available; but make sure you educate yourself on what type of chlorine dioxide disinfections are available. Some methods of chlorine dioxide disinfection work much better than others, some methods are better and safer than others; and generally speaking, the best way to administer chlorine dioxide into your system is to have your vendor generate it on-site at your facility.

As with all things having to do with advanced water treatment or HVAC cleaning services, if you have any questions or would like assistance at your facility, please do not hesitate to call us. We’ll come out and give you a FREE assessment!

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Neglecting Air Duct and Vent Cleaning is Bad for Business: PART TWO

Author’s Note: PART ONE of this post is about the Customer’s perception of dirty vents and ducts. PART TWO is about the realities of neglecting your vents and ducts. Thanks for reading! Mason Bourbon

PART TWO

It is 95 degrees on a bright summer Saturday afternoon. You are getting ready for the busiest day of the week in your retail shop in the city, except you have one problem: your shop feels like an oven and you are not running a bakery. If this type of scenario has ever happened to you, you already know the outcome: Lost sales, lost opportunities, lost customers…  no matter how you slice it, you lost money.

One of the most common causes of HVAC malfunction is system neglect. On days like the one I described above, you will be wishing that you had hired a top commercial water treatment company, or a reputable HVAC mechanical maintenance firm, or a NADCA-certified HVAC cleaning service company, because once the damage of lost sales is done, it cannot be reversed.

In PART ONE of this post, I described what the perception of dirty ducts and vents can do to a business or facility, but the real consequences of running your HVAC while it is actually dirty could be much worse. Whether it is system breakdown or the possibility of making people sick, a dirty HVAC system is to be avoided at all costs. If you would like to read PART ONE of this post, you can do so here.

What Went Wrong?

There are many things that can go wrong with an HVAC system that could cause your cooling to fail; and this is by no means an over-simplification or downplaying of proper system maintenance and water treatment. That said, when was the last time you had your HVAC system and ductwork inspected and cleaned? If you have never had your system inspected or cleaned, or if it hasn’t been done in many years/seasons, then your neglect may have been the culprit.

While it is true that your fan could have burned out or your heat exchanger could be clogged, there is a very good chance that your problems started with a dirty system. Not changing filters or dust, pollen and mold in the ductwork could all lead to dirty condenser coils or clogged evaporator coils. If left unchecked, your HVAC system will have to work harder and harder to produce cooling. In all likelihood, eventually, something will overheat and breakdown.

The Reality of Dirty Vent and Ducts

From an efficiency point of view, airborne particulate like dust, pollen and mold, can and will clog the working portions of your HVAC system, especially if air filters have not been maintained or replaced. Clogged evaporator coils can cause emergency bills to skyrocket as your HVAC unit struggles to push air through it. This could also lead to fan burn out.

Routine cleaning of your air ducts and vents is essential not only for maintaining efficiency, but also for keeping your employees and customers from becoming ill. This is evidenced by the following:

“Several studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states, and independent scientific panels have consistently ranked indoor air pollution as an important environmental health problem.” Source: www.EPA.gov

When proper cleaning is neglected, it will likely lead to the increased proliferation of various types of biological contaminants, such as bacteria, viruses, pollen, and mold. These contaminants get blown out of the system and into the air. As a result, the polluted air can introduce a variety of ailments into your workplace. This contamination is often referred to as “Sick Building Syndrome“. Some of the potential symptoms include, but are not limited to, chest tightness, muscle aches, coughing, fever, chills, and numerous allergic reactions such as upper respiratory congestion and mucous membrane irritation.

One prominent example is the legionella bacterium. Legionella thrives in warm water. It can become present and proliforate in places like drip pans, cooling towers and evaporator coils. If water vapor containing certain strains of the bacteria is inhaled, one has the potential to develop Legionnaire’s Disease, a relatively dangerous form of pneumonia. (More information on this disease, its prevention, and its treatment can be found on our website.) All of these reactions and symptoms can lead to more workers calling in sick, bigger medical bills, and a loss of customers, which will reduce the efficiency and profitability of your business. If left unchecked, this could ultimately spell disaster for your company. The EPA quantifies this with the following statement:

“EPA estimates that poor indoor air may cost the nation tens of billions of dollars each year in lost productivity and medical care.” Source: www.EPA.gov

A common misconception is that neglecting duct cleaning and services of that nature will not negatively affect business efficiency and medical health. While in the short-term this may be the case, in the long run it can lead to reduced efficiency and the spread of airborne pathogens in your workplace that can negatively affect the health of your employees and your customers.

Cleaning Schedule and Specifications

Cleaning schedules vary depending on the system and location, but it is critical to consult an expert commercial/industrial vent and duct cleaning service company to establish a schedule for proper maintenance. After installation of a new or refurbished system, inspection is necessary to ensure that your system is clean and running efficiently. It is most crucial during those times because doing so will limit how much future maintenance needs to be performed. After start up, it is good practice to have your vents inspected at least once a year. If you have cooling towers, you should also consider cooling tower cleaning services to keep them operating at peak efficiency. This is usually done twice a year.

The two most prominent figures in support of air duct and vent cleaning are the EPA and NADCA. The EPA certifies the need for it, while NADCA lays out the specifications. NADCA further recommends that you hire a certified company that will follow their instructions explicitly. These certifications and specifications can be viewed on their respective websites:

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq

https://nadca.com

The basic process includes the use of a vacuum to create negative pressure, which causes the particulate contamination to become airborne and to be pulled out of the system. This prevents it from entering the facility and minimizes the damage that it can cause. As a leading NADCA certified air duct and vent cleaning services company, our technicians are all hired and trained by experts in HVAC cleaning services according to NADCA standards in order to ensure that every job is completed correctly and efficiently.

What About Restaurants?

Restaurants have another challenge on top of their normal ventilation system maintenance. Most restaurants have grease hoods installed over their cooking surfaces. Over time, these kitchen hoods are designed to collect grease at the vent on the roof. If neglected, a grease hood could easily be overcome by grease which poses a very serious fire hazard. Most states have strict fire safety codes that are meant to protect the public by mandating when and how kitchen hoods are cleaned and maintained. If your facility had a kitchen hood, make sure that you know the law regarding its maintenance in your State of operation. The National Fire Protection Association created Code 96 to provide preventive and operative fire safety requirements intended to reduce the potential fire hazard of both public and private commercial cooking operations. You can learn more at: nfpa.org

Our Commitment to You

Clarity Water Technologies, LLC, is dedicated to being the best air vent and duct cleaning company around. With this in mind, our commitment to you is that we will provide our highly trained and skilled technicians with the tools and resources necessary to inspect and clean as much of your system as possible in order to eliminate biological contamination that can lead to illness and reduced efficiency. In other words, if it can be accessed, it will be cleaned thoroughly by our expert technicians.

Need Help?

If your ducts and vents are in need of cleaning and you would like a free estimate, or if you have any questions about the process of cleaning your vents and ducts, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Need to know the best way to clean a heat exchanger, or how to clean and disinfect a cooling tower? We can help with that.

BONUS: If you would like information of choosing the best HVAC cleaning service  in your area, please download our FREE eBook: Top 5 Tips for Choosing the Best HVAC Cleaning Company here:

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A Guide to NYC Cooling Tower Violations: Understanding the ISR and VDR

The NYC Cooling Tower Laws were passed to keep people safe from legionella bacteria and the severe form of pneumonia that it causes. Over the past few years, thousands of cooling towers were inspected and tested by the Department of Health’s newly staffed Office of Building Water Supply Oversight (OBWSO). If you are a cooling tower owner in New York City and have received an Inspection Summary Report (ISR) or a Violation Deficiency Report (VDR) then this is article for you. At first glance these documents, issued by the OBWSO, can be very confusing. The following article and FREE downloadable eBook can help answer questions that you may have about your NYC cooling tower ISR, VDR, and/or summons or any assessed fines or penalties.

NYC Cooling Tower Violations and the Violations Deficiency Report

To address growing public health concerns with Legionella and other waterborne pathogens, New York City passed laws specifically mandating the maintenance and operation of cooling towers and has instituted the first proactive inspection program for cooling towers in the United States. If you own a building in New York City with a cooling tower, failure to comply with these new Legionella laws will result in financially significant penalties.

Throughout the first full year of instating the new NY City and State Legionella laws, we have fielded many questions from building owners wanting to know what they needed to do to comply with the new laws and, in many cases, what they were doing wrong – because they were already receiving violations for issues where they thought that they were already in compliance! Without a doubt, this phenomenon has been more heavily felt within the Five Boroughs of NYC than in other places throughout the state. The New York City Legionella Laws are very specific. They go way beyond merely having a sound cooling tower water treatment program or conducting a yearly cooling tower cleaning.

In response to the huge demand for information regarding NYC Cooling Tower Violations, our compliance team has put together a guide to understanding the violations associated with not properly operating and/or maintaining a cooling tower in NYC. If you own a cooling tower in the City, our guide may help you decode the penalties that you may be at risk for.

In the guide you will find all of the possible violations and the corresponding penalties that may be levied against a building owner that is not in compliance with the law. Each Violation has various Citations that are assigned to it. If you have been assessed with multiple Citations that fall under the same Violation, you are typically only penalized for that Violation one time. You can use this document to help you further understand what the Inspectors from the Department of Health’s Office of Building Water Supply Oversight (OBWSO) are looking for during their visits so that you may avoid unnecessary penalties and fines. Additionally, if you have already been inspected, you can use this document to help you plan and hopefully prevent future violations.

Brief History of Legionella Laws in NYC

By mid-July of 2015, agents of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene were aggressively investigating the source of a suspected legionella outbreak that would eventually sicken 133 people and claim the lives of 16 accidental victims. Dozens of cooling towers capable of transmitting legionella were tested throughout the city, but the DOH had a problem; there was no definitive list or document of record identifying of all the cooling towers in NYC.

In July of 2015, cooling tower water treatment and maintenance was not regulated in New York, or really anywhere in the United States; but New York City’s outbreak in the South Bronx was so severe that it called for immediate legislative action. Both the New York City AND New York State initially passed emergency regulations to register and address all cooling towers throughout the City and State. By July of 2016, both New York City and New York State had passed sweeping cooling tower laws meant to protect the public and which carry severe penalties for their disregard.

New York State has New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, Title 10 –  Part 4: Protection Against Legionella which given its power by Statutory Authority: Public Health Law, section 225(5)(a). New York City Passed Local Law 77 or 2015 and codified its regulations with a new Chapter 8 (Cooling Towers) of Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York.

Today, these laws represent the most stringent and broad sweeping laws ever passed in the United States in regard to protecting the public from legionella.

 

NYC Cooling Tower Violations & Penalties

There are five key steps or milestones in the assessment, issuance and satisfaction of NYC Cooling Tower Violations and Penalties:

  1. Formal Cooling Tower Inspection –  Inspectors from the Department of Health’s Office of Building Water Supply Oversight (OBWSO) will visit every residential and commercial facility with a cooling tower in the Five Boroughs of New York this year. They will conduct investigations of building water supply and distribution systems including cooling towers, water tanks, evaporative condensers, internal plumbing and waste water systems throughout each facility. They may collect environmental samples for testing, conducting water quality analysis including water quality measurements and they will review building maintenance programs and plans for building cooling tower systems to ensure compliance. Depending on the facility and their findings, these visits can take many hours or additional visits to complete.
  1. Inspection Summary Report (ISR) –  After conducting their initial inspection, the OBWSO Inspector will trigger their Inspection Summary Report. In most cases this report will be delivered electronically on the same day that the inspection is completed. The ISR will be delivered to the email address that the Department of Buildings has on file that was used to register the cooling tower online via the NYC Cooling Tower Registration Portal. The ISR lists the codes of law and whether the facility is Compliant or in Violation. This initial report should be used by the building owner or manager to determine if anything needs to be prepared to answer any potential negative findings.
  1. Violation Deficiency Report (VDR) –  The ISR is sent to the in-house Compliance Team of the OBWSO who reviews it for accuracy and makes a final evaluation of the findings against the written laws. The OBWSO official findings are memorialized in the Violation Deficiency Report (VDR) which is also delivered electronically to the email address on record. The VDR is typically sent out within 30 days of the inspection and explains greater details about any violations that were noted during the inspection. Each section of the law that has a violation assessed will be noted on the VDR and the specific citation that triggered the violation will be explained in detail. Every citation will include a number of “Days to Cure,” which will either be 7, 3, or 0. If the citation has zero days to cure, the only thing you can do is address the issues that triggered the citation for future inspections. If the citation allows, 3 or 7 days to cure, you have that much time to upload remedial information via the Online Cooling Tower Registration Portal, and hopefully avoid a penalty for that specific infraction.

Cooling Tower VDR Violation Deficiency Report Sample

  1. Notice of Violation (Summons) –  Cooling Tower-related Summonses typically have a hearing date scheduled within the 30 to 60 days of receiving the Summons. They may also offer an option to mail-in a payment penalty for many of the potential infractions. Should you choose to pay the mail-in penalty, you will not have to attend the hearing. However, you will still be required to update your missing information/testing data to avoid future violations. You may also be required to attend the hearing and bypass the mail-in penalty, depending on the severity of the infraction. The Environmental Control Board (ECB) is an administrative law court where judges hear cases. Its operations are overseen by the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), which is the City’s central, independent administrative law court. OATH Hearing Officers hear cases on Notices of Violation (summonses) which charge a person with breaking rules or laws that protect the City’s environment, health or public safety.

It is important to note that if your Summons includes a Cure Date, then that is the Date by which the enforcement agency needs to process, accept and certify a Certificate of Correction in order for you to avoid your OATH hearing.  If no date is shown, your summons cannot be cured, and you are required to attend the OATH hearing.  If the “Must Appear” box is checked, and the respondent wants to fight the summons, then the Respondent must appear in person at the time, date, location and time of the scheduled OATH hearing.  If checked, this summons cannot be fought by mail, online, by phone or by webcam. 

In the event that you need to change the date of your hearing, you may request a different date by calling the OATH Hearings Division at 844-OATH-NYC (844-628-4692) before the scheduled hearing date. Each party may only make one (1) request to reschedule.

  1. Satisfying the Summons –  If a penalty is noted on your summons and the summons does not state that you must appear, you will have two options. You could either pay your penalties –  usually online, by mail or in person –  or you can contest your summons by participating in a hearing. If you pay your summons on or before the hearing date without having a hearing, you are admitting to the charge and you waive your right to a hearing. If you wish to fight a summons, you must do so on or before the hearing date listed on the summons. If you have a hearing and the Hearing Officer finds you in violation of the charges cited by the enforcement agency, you must pay that penalty, even if you wish to appeal the hearing officer’s finding.

If you did not pay before the hearing and you did not contest your summons by participating in a hearing, then you will be found in violation of the charge by a default and a higher penalty may be imposed.

If you participated in a hearing and a Hearing Officer found you in violation of the charges on the summons, you must pay the penalty imposed. OATH Hearing Officers do not have the discretion to alter or waive a penalty amount because all penalties are set by law. If you do not pay the imposed penalty, the City may file papers with the Civil Court of New York City and enter a judgment against you. The Department of Finance, the agency responsible for collecting money that is owed to the City, may also start collection activities.

 

Certificate of Correction

If you have received a Department of Buildings Summons (also known as Notice of Violation, violation or NOV) that includes a Commissioner’s order to correct the conditions(s). You may be required to certify the correction with the Department of Buildings Administrative Enforcement Unit (AEU) in order to clear the summons/violation from department records. A violation may continue to appear “open” in department records, even if you have attended the hearing or paid the imposed penalty until you submit acceptable proof that the violating condition(s) have been corrected. If required, you must correct all violating conditions in order to certify correction and resolve the violation. The Department accepts a Certificate of Correction any time after a violation is issued. Partial correction of the violation is not acceptable.

A Certificate of Correction is a form used to certify correction of a violation/summonses issued by Department of Buildings and scheduled for a hearing at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH)/Environmental Control Board (ECB).

If a Summons is eligible for a “cure,” you may be able to avoid a hearing and penalty. In order to do so, you must correct all violating conditions, submit an acceptable Certificate of Correction to the Department, and receive a Certificate of Correction Approval by the “CURE DATE” listed on your summons. A “CURE” is an admission of the charge(s) on the summons, a waiver of any and all defenses and a waiver of the ability to appeal the charge(s).

For more information of how to file a Certificate of Correction, please visit the NYC Department of Buildings’ website.

 

Understanding Your Summons

Long-Form-Cooling-Tower-Summons-2017

Long Form Summons

Summons Number – The unique number to identify a particular summons.

Enforcement Agency – the agency that wrote the summons and filed it at the OATH Hearings Division for a hearing.

Respondent – The person or entity that the City enforcement agency names as responsible for the summons and that is responsible for answering the summons.

Date of Occurrence – The date the charges on the summons were observed.

Place of Occurrence – The location where the charged offense took place.

Hearing Date – The date of scheduled hearing at the OATH Hearings Division.

Borough – The borough where the OATH hearing office is located.

Cure Date – Date by which the enforcement agency needs to process, accept and certify a Certificate of Correction in order for you to avoid the OATH hearing.  If no date is shown, your summons cannot be cured and you are required to attend the OATH hearing.

Must Appear – If this box is checked and the respondent wants to fight the summons, then the Respondent must appear in person at the time, date, location and time of the scheduled OATH hearing.  If checked, this summons cannot be fought by mail, online, by phone or by webcam.

Remedy – Explains how to come into compliance with the enforcement agency’s rules and regulations so that you are not issued another summons for the same offense in the future.

Provision of Law – The section of law or the rule that the respondent is charged with violating.

Infraction Code – Use this code to see if your summons is one that can be fought by mail, online, by phone or by webcam.

Recurring condition – If you have already been issued a summons for the same offense, it will be indicated here.

Violation Details – Contains the inspector’s detailed description of the conditions observed. Read this section carefully, since there may be multiple conditions included as part of the summons.

Remedy – Explains how to come into compliance with the enforcement agency’s rules and regulations so that you are not issued another summons for the same offense in the future.

How To Be In Compliance With The New York Cooling Tower Laws

While there are many parts to the New York State and City Cooling Tower Laws, the following is a list of the major requirements that must be fulfilled to be compliant: 

  1. Your cooling towers MUST be registered on both the New York City Cooling Tower Registration and New York State Cooling Tower Registration
  2. Your New York City Department of Buildings Cooling Tower Registration Number MUST be posted on a sign or plate that is securely fastened to the cooling tower/evaporative condenser. You should have one number per cooling tower system on your property.
  3. Your Cooling Tower Maintenance Program & Plan (MPP; also known as a Water Management Plan) MUST be in place. This plan needs to be developed by a “qualified person” and was required to be on-site by March 1st, 2016.
  4. Your cooling tower water treatment program must be in place at the time of startup. Your program must comply with your NYC Cooling Tower Maintenance Program and it must utilize daily automated blow down control and chemical feed.
  5. Your cooling towers MUST be cleaned and disinfected in accordance with your Maintenance Program and ASHRAE Standard 188 within 15 days of start-up. Cooling towers MUST be cleaned and disinfected as often as necessary as per Chapter 8 of Title 24 of The Rules of the City of New York, but no less than twice per year.
  6. You MUST have a qualified person perform a pre-startup inspection and take a legionella sample prior to starting up your cooling tower this cooling season. The sampling dates and test results must be entered in the log section of your Maintenance Program and Plan.
  7. A legionella sample must be taken at start up and then every 90 days while the cooling tower is operating. If your system runs seasonally, the first test must be taken before start up. IMPORTANT: Ninety 90 days means 90 days –  not three months!
  8. A qualified person must conduct a cooling tower inspection every 90 days while the tower is in operation.
  9. A qualified person must conduct a yearly Compliance Inspection. The yearly certification must be submitted to the City via the online cooling tower portal.
  10. You MUST have testing supplies on-site and, in New York City, someone on your team must be trained to and responsible for taking manual water quality tests at least three times per week (with no more than two days between tests) and biological tests (dip slide tests) at least once per week. The water quality test results must reflect pH, temperature, conductivity, and biocidal indictors present in the cooling tower (open condenser) water. If there is no one on your team to that can perform these mandatory duties, there are approved methods to automate the water quality tests; however, the biological indicator tests must still be run weekly. The tower must be inspected weekly by someone on your on-site team and any issues must be noted in your log book.

If you need any help with these tasks, contact us for a FREE Cooling Tower Inspection and NYC Cooling Tower Compliance Quote. We offer comprehensive Cooling Tower Contracts that keep you compliant with the law. Our contracts include licensed chemical service, cooling tower cleanings, legionella testing, all testing supplies, a custom Maintenance Program & Plan, and much more.

The Legal Stuff

Please be aware: Clarity Water Technologies is not responsible for the accuracy or implementation of this document. This document, NYC Cooling Tower Violations: A Guide to Understanding Your Inspection Summary Report and the Violation Deficiency Report, is for information purposes only. By using this document in ANY way, you are hereby agreeing to fully defend, indemnify and hold harmless Clarity Water Technologies from and against any and all losses, claims, suits or other legal liability and legal expenses of any nature imposed upon or brought against them by reason of any act or omission of Clarity Water Technologies or its agents or employees that may arise in use of this document.

As always, thank you for reading!

Download the Guide to NYC Cooling Tower Violations VDR and ISR

Legionella Laws for Cooling Towers: New York City & State Comparison Chart

Are the New York City and New York State Cooling Tower Laws confusing you? You are not alone. We get dozens of calls asking which law applies to which location and when. While we cannot offer legal advice on how you should interpret the laws, we can offer you some assistance in navigating them for yourself.

Below we have put together a Side-by-Side Comparison of the Requirements that have been laid out in New York City and State Legionella Laws and, in some cases, must be accounted for in your Legionella Maintenance Program and Plan. This simple to read chart is intended to help you and your team navigate the new legionella laws. Keep in mind: It is not intended to be a substitute for reading the actual laws.

Why Do We Need Cooling Tower Laws?

Water treatment industry professionals have been warning about the dangers of legionella since the Philadelphia outbreak of 1976 that gave the legionella bacteria its name; a convention of the American Legion held at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. Those who were affected suffered from a type of severe pneumonia (lung infection) that eventually became known as Legionnaires’ disease. Since then Legionella has been suspected in thousands of lung infections and pneumonia related deaths throughout the United States; but not until 2015, almost 40 years later, has there been any sweeping laws passed to protect the public from illness or death caused by Legionella.

That all changed in New York City last year, in the summer of 2015. By mid-July the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene were aggressively investigation the source of a suspected legionella outbreak that would sicken 133 people and eventually claim the lives of 16 of them. Cooling towers capable of transmitting the bacteria were tested throughout the city, but the DOH had a problem; there were no easily accessible records of all the cooling towers in NYC.

Cooling tower water treatment and maintenance was not regulated in New York, or anywhere in the United States prior to July 2015; but New York City’s outbreak in the South Bronx called for legislative action. Both the New York City AND New York State initially passed emergency regulations to register and address all cooling towers throughout the City and State. By July of 2016, both New York City and New York State had passed sweeping cooling tower laws meant to protect the public and which carry severe penalties for their disregard.

New York State has New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, Title 10 – Part 4: Protection Against Legionella which given its power by Statutory Authority: Public Health Law, section 225(5)(a). New York City Passed Local Law 77 or 2015 and codified its regulations with a new Chapter 8 (Cooling Towers) of Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York.

Has There Been Cooling Tower Legislation Passed in Other States?

At the time of the post, we know of no other state that has passed cooling tower regulations that are as significant as the ones found in New York; however, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) did publish a standard that establishes the minimum legionellosis risk management requirements for building water systems. While a standard is not a law, it does provide public guidelines that become harder to ignore in the event of an outbreak. Now that ASHRAE Standard 188 has by published, it is not unreasonable for it local building departments throughout the United States to incorporate it into their bylaws and regulations. In fact, ASHRAE Standard 188 is specifically named as a resource in both the New York City and State Cooling Tower Laws.

The New York City & State Legionella Law Side-by-Side Comparison Chart

The City and State laws are very similar; however there are some significant differences. While we encourage everyone to read the City and State laws, we have put together an easy to follow side-by-side comparison of the major requirements. You may download our free side-by-side chart below. Please note: This is not a legal document and we are not offering any legal advice. We recommend that you read the actual City and State laws for yourself and, if appropriate, seek the guidance of a professionally qualified entity to correctly determine the proper steps that you need to take in order to stay in compliance with the law.

If you need assistance in New York City or State with your cooling tower testing, water treatment, disinfection or Maintenance Program and Plan (MPP), please do not hesitate to contact us!

Good luck and thanks for reading! Here’s your link:

Download NY City and State Cooling Tower Laws Side by Side Comparison Chart

Free Download: New York City and State Legionella Laws for Cooling Towers

If you are searching for New York City and/or New York State Legionella Laws for Cooling Towers then you came to the right place! There are actually multiple pieces of legislation that make up all the rules and regulations that you must follow in order to be in compliance with the New York Cooling Tower laws.

Before July 2015 there were no Cooling Tower or Legionella Laws of this magnitude in New York (or any other state for that matter); but after 133 citizens became sickened by the legionella bacteria and 16 of them succumbed to the resulting complications of Legionnaire’s Disease, New York City and New York State moved swiftly to pass laws with the intent of keeping future generations safe. The emergency laws and their permanent replacements have kept building owners and water treatment companies on their toes over the past year. As of the summer of 2016, we have seen the DOHMH start to hold cooling tower owner accountable to the new laws –  and in cases where they find violations –  substantial fines and penalties have been levied.

We have taken the liberty of curating the New York City and New York State Cooling Tower Laws into one document so that you can easily download them to review or as a reference document that can be combined into your New York Cooling Tower Maintenance Program and Plan (MPP).

The New York CITY Legionella Laws

The City’s requirements are found in Local Law 77 of 2015. Local Law 77 requires registration, inspection, cleaning, disinfection and testing of all New York City cooling towers. Local Law 77 also requires building owners to annually certify that they are in compliance with the law.

In order to execute Local Law 77, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) passed new rules to be added to the Rules of the City of New York; they were ratified in Chapter 8 of Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York. The rules require building owners to create routine and long-term maintenance procedures for their cooling towers and for owners to register their towers with the City. Chapter 8 of Title 24 gives specific requirements for emergency cooling tower disinfection and ongoing cooling tower water treatment. Each New York City cooling tower was required to have its own Maintenance Program and Plan in place by March 1st, 2016.

The New York STATE Legionella Laws

The State’s requirements were initially established as emergency regulations. They has since been amended and codified in New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, Title 10 –  Part 4: Protection Against Legionella (NYCRR Title 10 Part 4). The State passed its final regulations and adopted them into law on July 6th, 2016. The State’s regulations apply statewide, including in New York City. Once the law was passed each New York State Cooling Tower was required to have a Maintenance Program and Plan in place by September 1st, 2016. The New York State Legionella Law also makes provisions for sampling potable water in health care institutions, including all general hospitals and residential health care facilities.

The State and City regulations overlap in many areas.

The State’s NYCRR Title 10 Part 4: Protection Against Legionella, and the City’s Local Law 77 of 2015 and Chapter 8 (Cooling Towers) of Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York can all be found in the FREE combined download below.

The Legal Stuff

Please be aware: Clarity Water Technologies is not responsible for the accuracy or implementation of this document. This document, The New York City and State Combined Legionella Laws for Cooling Towers, is for information purposes only. By using this document in ANY way, you are hereby agreeing to fully defend, indemnify and hold harmless Clarity Water Technologies from and against any and all losses, claims, suits or other legal liability and legal expenses of any nature imposed upon or brought against them by reason of any act or omission of Clarity Water Technologies or its agents or employees that may arise in use of this document.

As always, thank you for reading!

Download Your FREE Copy of The NY City and State Combined Legionella Laws for Cooling Tower Owners

New York City vs New York State Legionella Laws: The Definitive Guide

Since the Legionella Outbreak of 2015 in the South Bronx, there has been a lot of confusion over the following topics: What is Legionella and what needs to be done in New York City and New York State to be in compliance with the new cooling tower laws.  The City and State laws were recently passed with the intention of preventing the spread of Legionella bacteria through cooling towers. As the agents from the various local health departments throughout New York begin to enforce compliance throughout the state, building owners look to their environmental consultants and water treatment companies for answers. The problem is that the New York City laws only pertain to properties that are located in the 5 Boroughs of NYC and they are slightly different than the laws that pertain to rest of the State of New York. Hopefully, this post will clear up a lot of the confusion.

New York City’s Legionella Laws are governed by Local Law 77 of 2015 and Title 24 Chapter 8 of the Rules of The City of New York and New York State’s Emergency Regulations have been ratified in the newly adopted New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, Title 10 –  Part 4: Protection Against Legionella (Part 4 to Title 10 NYCRR). There are many similarities between the City and State laws. In fact, they overlap in many areas, so complying with one often covers you for the other; however, there are a few differences that you will want to keep in mind. Let go through the important ones:

Registering Your Cooling Tower

Both the City and State require you to register your cooling towers on their individual systems. This can be done online. For the State, go to https://ct.doh.ny.gov/ and for the City, go to https://coolingtowers.cityofnewyork.us/eforma/custom/index.do. This is very important! If your cooling tower is located in one of the 5 Boroughs of NYC, you MUST register it on BOTH the CITY and the STATE websites. Also, if you have more than one cooling tower, you must register EACH ONE individually.

Labeling Your Cooling Tower

Even though New York City cooling towers must be obtain registration numbers from both the City and State websites, only New York City cooling towers are required to have the City Cooling Tower Registration Number permanently affixed to the outside of the tower in a visible location. NY State does not have this requirement.

Having a Maintenance Program and Plan (MPP)

Sometimes also referred to as a Water Management Plan, having an updated Cooling Tower Maintenance Program and Plan (MPP) is required by BOTH the NY City and State laws. Compliance for both requires you to have one plan for each cooling tower on your property by September 1st, 2016.  Your MPP must include your schedule for routine bacteriological culture sampling, a system for cooling tower water treatment, a plan for routine Legionella culture sampling and analysis, a plan for immediate Legionella culture sampling and analysis under specific conditions and the contact information for all of the responsible people tasked with implementing the plan. The plan must be kept on-site and must be produced whenever an authorized agent of the City or State requests it.

Testing Your Cooling Tower

The City and State have very different requirements for testing your cooling tower. There are three major areas of testing:

  1. General Bacteriological Testing –  Pertains to BOTH the City and State. This type of testing is easily done on site with a simple dipslide culture test. Both the City and the State say that you must conduct bacteriological culture sampling and analysis to assess microbiological activity in the cooling tower. This can essentially be performed using a simple dipslide test. Dipslides are very easy to use. Dip the slide into the tower basin, wait 24 hours, count the number of dots that appear on the slide and record your findings.

The big difference between the City and the State’s biological testing requirements is in the intervals. The State wants your dipslide test results recorded every 30 days, but the City wants it done once per week while the tower is in operation. Obviously if you are adhering to the City law, you are already fulfilling the State requirement as well.

Both the City and the State want you to keep a record of your test results. However, the State law also requires the owner of the cooling to report the date and results of their most recent bacteriological test, every 90 days while a cooling tower is in use, using the statewide online electronic system.

  1. Legionella Specific Sampling & Analysis –  The rules for Legionella testing pertain to BOTH the City and State. The new State regulation requires sampling within two weeks of seasonal start-up and thereafter at intervals not to exceed 90 days. In addition, the new regulation requires that year-round use towers be sampled at intervals not to exceed 90 days and within two weeks after start-up following maintenance.

The City and the State also require immediate Legionella sampling to be conducted if the following happens:

  1. power failure of sufficient duration to allow for the growth of bacteria;
  2. loss of biocide treatment of sufficient duration to allow for the growth of bacteria;
  3. failure of conductivity control, or any other control methods, to maintain proper cycles of concentration;
  4. a determination by the department or local health department that one or more cases of legionellosis is or may be associated with the cooling tower, based upon epidemiologic data or laboratory testing; and/or
  5. any other conditions specified by the department or local health department.

The NY State law requires that samples be sent to an ELAP Certified Lab for analysis. The City does not require you to use an ELAP Certified Lab, but it does require an ELITE Certified Lab; so to be compliant, make sure your samples are analyzed by the right Lab. Most ELAP Certified Labs are also ELITE Certified.

Like the dipslide tests, both the City and the State want you to keep a record of your Legionella sampling and test results. However, the State law also requires the owner of the cooling to submit the date of last Legionella culture sample collection, the analysis result(s), and the date of any required remedial action, every 90 days while a cooling tower is in use, using their statewide online electronic system.

  1. General Water Quality Testing –  Pertains ONLY to New York City and can easily be performed on-site with a simple test kit. Parameters to be tested must include pH, temperature, conductivity and biocidal indicators (biocides), must be measured and recorded as specified in your Management Program and Plan.

Water quality tests must be performed at least three times each week, provided that no more than two days pass without testing while the cooling tower system is in operation. All test results must be recorded for each tower system and kept on-site to be made available to department officials upon request.

Weekly Cooling Tower Inspections

New York City legislation requires that an owner must designate a responsible person to monitor each cooling tower system at least weekly while such system is in use. This person must use a written or electronic checklist to record all visual observations of the cooling tower system and associated equipment. This part of the City law requires that the designated person physically observe all wetted surfaces visible during cooling tower operation (without having to shut down the system), including tower basins and drift eliminators. They must examine the tower for the presence of organic material, biofilm, algae, scale, sediment and silt/dust deposits, organics (oil and grease), and other visible contaminants and must denote them on the checklist.

The responsible person must also observe and note the condition of chemical dosing and control equipment and of the tower bleed system, and determine if there is sufficient storage and delivery of treatment chemicals. Any system anomalies, issues or problems must be recorded on the checklist and reported to the management and maintenance team for immediate corrective action.

This weekly inspection requirement is only found in the New York CITY legislation, not in the State.

Performing 90-Day Inspections

According to BOTH the City and State laws, an owner must retain a “qualified person” to conduct a compliance inspection at least once every ninety (90) days while a cooling tower system is in operation. The qualified person must complete and the owner must maintain a written or electronic checklist containing observations and findings with respect to any of the following:

  1. Presence of organic material, biofilm, algae, and other visible contaminants.
  2. General condition of the tower, the basin, packing material and drift eliminator.
  3. Quality of water makeup connections and control.
  4. Proper functioning of the conductivity control.
  5. Proper functioning of all dosing equipment (pumps, strain gauges).
  6. Review of routine maintenance records to ensure proper implementation of required activities and corrective actions as needed.

Obtaining an Annual Certification

To satisfy the requirements of both the New York City and New York State legionella laws, owners must obtain a written certification from a “qualified person” once per year (starting on November 1st, 2016 and then by November 1st of each year thereafter), stating that the cooling tower system has an active Maintenance Program and Plan (MPP) in place and that all activities stated within that plan or required by law were properly implemented, including but not limited to:

  1. That all bacteriological culture samples and analysis were performed properly and timely;
  2. That all Legionella culture samples and analysis were performed properly and timely;
  3. That any disinfection was performed properly and as per the law;
  4. That all inspections were performed as per the law;
  5. That all inspection findings, deficiencies, and corrective actions, and all certifications, were reported to the owner, who shall retain such information, in accordance with the law.

Clean and Disinfect Cooling Towers at LEAST Twice per Year

According to the City law, the cooling tower system must be cleaned whenever routine monitoring indicates a need for cleaning, but no less than twice a year, in accordance with your Maintenance Program and Plan (MPP). Cleaning protocol indicated by the manufacturer’s instructions or industry standards, and worker protective measures, as required by applicable law must be specified in the MMP. Water contact areas such as the basin, sump, fill, spray nozzles and fittings, drift eliminators and air intake louvres must be properly accessed or removed to facilitate cleaning.

The State does not have this requirement, however, both the City and State require that the tower system be disinfected whenever a cooling tower that has been shut down or idle for more than five days.

Using a “Qualified Person” for Required Tasks

Throughout the City and State laws the term “qualified person” is used quite a bit. You must use a “qualified person” to do conduct your compliance inspection or disinfect your tower, etc. It can get a little confusing.

This is important because there are different requirements for different tasks that must be performed. In other words, the employee on your team or the vendor that you hired to clean your disinfect your cooling tower may not necessarily be qualified to perform your mandatory quarterly inspections.

Here are the main areas where you need to pay attention:

  1. 90-Day Compliance Inspections and Yearly Certifications

New York City and New York State require that 90-Day Compliance Inspections and Annual Certification of maintenance and operation be performed by a New York State licensed and registered professional engineer; a certified industrial hygienist; a certified water technologist with training and experience developing maintenance plans and performing inspections in accordance with current standard industry protocols including, but not limited to ANSI/ASHRAE 188-2015; or an environmental consultant with at least two years of operational experience in water management planning and operation.

  1. Maintenance Program and Plan Development

New York State merely says that you need to obtain one and have it on-site; it doesn’t specify where to get it, so technically it can be written by someone with experience on your staff. New York City, however, is very specific about who can develop and sign off on a Cooling Tower Maintenance Program and Plan. It is a “Qualified Person” that meets the same requirements for issuing a 90-Day Compliance Inspection or Yearly Certification. (See above)

  1. Ongoing Water Treatment

In order to maintain a cooling tower that complies with the City and State laws, you must have ongoing water treatment on your tower that is administered automatically while the tower is in operation. Your water treatment program MUST utilize a biocide. New York City and State both require that any use of biocides (i.e. disinfecting chemicals) be done by a commercial pesticide applicator, a pesticide technician certified in accordance with the requirements of New York State’s Pesticides Regulations (Environmental Conservation Law Article 33 and Title 6 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations [NYCRR], Part 325), or a pesticide apprentice under the supervision of a certified applicator. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) provides a list of registered pesticide businesses in Category 7G (“Cooling Towers”) who are qualified to perform the disinfection process. Unless someone on your staff meets this requirement, you may not treat or disinfect your own cooling tower with a biocide.

  1. Cooling Tower Cleaning and Disinfection

The only acceptable method of disinfecting a cooling tower is by administering biocide at proper doses and, therefore, must be handled by a commercial pesticide applicator in accordance with New York law as above. Cleaning activities that do not use any of the chemicals described above, such as basic scrubbing or power washing, do not need to be performed by a person qualified to apply pesticides.

Performing an Emergency Legionella Test

Both the City and State Laws require cooling tower owners to perform an immediate Legionella culture test and analysis when one of the following issues occurs:

  • When there is instance of power failure of sufficient duration to allow for the growth of bacteria.
  • When there is instance of loss of biocide treatment of sufficient duration to allow for the growth of bacteria.
  • When there is instance of failure of conductivity control, or any other control methods, to maintain proper cycles of concentration.
  • When there is a determination by the department or local health department that one or more cases of legionellosis is or may be associated with the cooling tower, based upon epidemiologic data or laboratory testing.

So you may be thinking that the phrase “of sufficient duration to allow for the growth of bacteria” is more than a bit subjective; that’s because it is. However, there are some guidelines that should be considered.  Legionella will grow in water that is approximately 70 to 113°F with the ideal growth range being 90 to 108°F. If your cooling tower loses flow and/or biocide for more than 24 hours and the water temperature is within these ranges, there is a significant chance that you are starting to breed Legionella in your tower.

That said, we are of the opinion that, since there is no specific parameter for testing, testing for it is not nearly as important as actively disinfecting. Legionella test results can take up to 10 days to get back from the lab; in that time your cooling tower may be teeming with Legionella. After a 24 hour loss of power or biocide, the responsible solution is to immediately increase biocide feed to disinfect the tower. 

Notifying the Department of Health and Public When There is a HIGH Legionella Count

In the event that you test your cooling tower for Legionella and the results come back showing that there are more than 1,000 colony forming units per milliliter of water (CFU/mL), both the City and State require that you immediately clean and disinfect your tower and contact your local Department of Health within 24 hours of receipt if that information. The New York State law goes a bit further though.

The State law says that, in the case where the culture sample exceeds 1,000 CFU/mL, the owner must also notify the public. The specific section of the law can be found in NYCRR Title 10 Part 4: Protection Against Legionella:

  • 4-1.6 Notification.

(a) The owner of a cooling tower shall notify the local health department within 24 hours of receipt of a Legionella culture sample result that exceeds 1,000 colony forming units per milliliter (CFU/mL). The local health department shall notify the state department of health with 24 hours of receipt of such a report. 

(b) The owner shall notify the public of such test results in a manner determined by the local health department or, in the event that the department elects to determine the manner of public notification, by the department. 

So what does this mean exactly? The law states that the public MUST be notified, but it doesn’t express the exact method of notification, except to say that it must be in a manner determined by the local health department, which technically means that the department of health could potentially require your facility to take out a full page public ad in the local newspaper.

However, in similar cases where there is a likely health related issue tied to a location, the local health department (or sometimes the building owner) will issue a letter to all building occupants informing them that there is has been a potential problem reported to the department; in this case – that a medical professional or hospital has reported an instance of Legionella at the address. The letter sent may describe the potentially elevated risk to susceptible people (such as the very young, the elderly or those that may be immuno-compromised) and may also inform them of the steps that the owner is taking in by direction of the health department, and the precautionary measures that the occupants may take to further minimize their risk.

Regardless of the mode of notification, it goes without saying that any place of business or public institutional entity (like a school, hospital or housing facility) could be deeply impacted by a public admission of this nature. This one provision of the New York State Legionella law is perhaps its most critical.

Record Keeping

Both the City and State require that all records related to your cooling towers’ maintenance and compliance must be kept for a minimum of three years, including the City’s weekly water quality and biological testing results, the State’s monthly biological testing results, all Cooling Tower Cleaning & Disinfection Certificates, all 90-Day Compliance Inspection Reports, all Legionella Sampling and Analysis Reports and all Annual Certification Reports.

These records, along with your Maintenance Program and Plan (MPP) must be made available to the NYSDOH and the local health department; furthermore, the STATE requires that all inspection reports (90-Day and Annual Certification) be uploaded to their electronic system.  So every 90 Days cooling tower owners must log into the online State system and UPLOAD their reports.

Additional New York STATE Requirements for Health Care Facilities

Because of the increased vulnerability of hospital and nursing home populations due to their advanced ages and/or potentially compromised immune systems, the new State regulations include additional requirements for hospitals and residential health care facilities that have cooling towers.

By Sept. 1, 2016, these facilities must perform or update their existing environmental assessment, using forms mandated by the NYSDOH, in order to evaluate all of the building’s water systems, including the potable water systems, and identify sampling locations. This plan must be updated annually. Environmental assessments are standardized through use of the NY State Environmental Assessment Forms.

Additionally, all general hospitals and residential health care facilities must adopt and implement a sampling and management plan for potable water systems by Dec. 1, 2016, which includes routine Legionella culture sampling and analysis and immediate Legionella sampling and analysis under specific conditions, including where the NYSDOH determines that one or more cases of legionellosis is, or may be, associated with the facility.

These facilities must conduct their Legionella culture sampling and analysis at intervals no greater than 90 days for the first year and annually thereafter. In cases where the potable water systems serve stem cell or organ transplant patients, they must continue to be sampled and analyzed at intervals not to exceed 90 days even after the first year.

The Legal Stuff

Please be aware: Clarity Water Technologies is not responsible for the accuracy or implementation of information contained within this post or to the sites linked to this post. This blog is for information purposes only. By using this information in ANY way, you are hereby agreeing to fully defend, indemnify and hold harmless Clarity Water Technologies from and against any and all losses, claims, suits or other legal liability and legal expenses of any nature imposed upon or brought against them by reason of any act or omission of Clarity Water Technologies or its agents or employees that may arise in use of this document. 

As always, thank you for reading!

If you would like to see the differences between the NY CITY and STATE Legionella Laws at-a-glance, please download our FREE side-by-side comparison chart.

Download NY City and State Cooling Tower Laws Side by Side Comparison Chart

Clarity’s Legionella Remediation Expert Pete Stempkowski Speaks to NBC News

Check out Clarity Water Technologies’ partner Pete Stempkowski on NBC News 4! Pete was recently interviewed by Sheldon Dutes of NBC 4 New York News Team as a Legionella Remediation Expert in New York City‘s ongoing story about the Legionnaires’ outbreak in the South Bronx. At this time, the outbreak has taken the lives of seven people and has sickened more than 85 residents living in the High Bridge, Morrisania, Hunts Point and Mott Haven sections of the South Bronx.

See the full interview here:

Legionella is the bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease, an aggressive form of pneumonia that could be potentially fatal. This bacterium got its name when a group of 182 people contracted the disease during an American Legion convention at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia in 1976. 29 of them died of the disease. Although this type of bacteria was certainly in existence before 1976, it had gone undiscovered. The sheer size of the outbreak in Philadelphia caused national awareness and scientific curiosity leading to its ultimate discovery. Legionella bacteria thrives in warm, moist places – like in the water running through the cooling towers of the Bellevue-Stratford’s air-conditioning system, which is exactly what spread the disease throughout the hotel in 1976. The bacterium was named Legionella and the disease, legionellosis, after the first known victims.

The recent legionellosis outbreak the South Bronx is shining a national spotlight on the need for advanced technologies and systems to address legionella in water systems and keep our neighborhoods and the air we breathe safe.

Clarity Water Technologies is the pioneer of the 360 Degree Legionella Management Service – a complete program that not only assesses risk and develops a custom tailored management plan, but also includes a full service prevention and emergency legionella remediation component. 360 Degree Legionella Management Service takes in full consideration of the recent ASHRAE Standard 188 – Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems.

Checklist for avoiding legionella in your cooling towers:

  1. Contact your water treatment service provider to make sure that they are using the correct water treatment chemicals to treat your cooling tower.
  2. A typical cooling tower water treatment program should consist of an oxidizing biocide, a non-oxidizing biocide and a corrosion inhibitor.
  3. Chemicals needs to be adjusted based on temperature and water usage.
  4. If you suspect that your cooling tower is dirty, contact a professional cooling tower cleaning company to conduct and assessment.
  5. Have your tower professional cleaned and disinfected if it is called for.
  6. OSHA recommends that cooling towers be cleaned at least twice per year.
  7. Have your cooling towers periodically tested for legionella.

2015 Legionella Outbreak Bronx NY resized 600

Facts about the South Bronx Legionellosis Outbreak:

  • 22 buildings were visited by NYC Department of Health Officials in the cluster area and 17 were identified to have cooling towers
  • All 17 cooling towers were tested for legionella bacteria
  • 5 of the cooling towers have tested positive
  • The 5 locations identified were: Lincoln Hospital, Concourse Plaza, Opera House Hotel, a Verizon Office Building and Streamline Plastic Co.
  • Department of Health supervised remediation has been completed at all 5 locations
  • The DOH has required all sites to submit long-term plans describing how they will maintain the cooling towers to protect against any future growth of Legionella.

If you need any assistance with water treatment for legionella or cooling tower chemistry, or if you would like more information about our 360 Degree Legionella Management Service, please contact Clarity Water Technologies for a free assessment.

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