Permanent regulations protecting against Legionella (Part 4 of New York State Sanitary Code) in cooling towers, and at general hospitals and residential healthcare facilities in New York State became effective on July 6, 2016. The regulations are divided into two subparts, with Subpart 4-1 covering cooling towers and Subpart 4-2 covering the potable water systems of general hospitals and residential health care facilities as defined in Article 28 of the Public Health Law.
Under these regulations, all cooling tower owners in New York State must:
- Register cooling towers in a statewide electronic system. New towers must be registered prior to initial operation and all tower registrations must be updated in the system whenever ownership changes.
- Establish and implement an updated maintenance program and plan by September 1, 2016, that includes a schedule for routine Legionella culture sampling and analysis, routine bacteriological culture sampling and analysis, and immediate Legionella sampling and analysis under specific conditions. Specifically, the plan shall include a schedule to conduct:
- Routine Legionella culture sampling and analysis within two weeks after startup for seasonal towers or within two weeks after start-up following maintenance for year-round towers and at intervals not to exceed 90 days, while the cooling tower is in use.
- Routine bacterial culture sampling and analysis at intervals not to exceed 30 days while the cooling tower is in use.
- Immediate Legionella culture sampling following a determination by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) or the Westchester County Department of Health (WCDH) that one or more cases of legionellosis is or may be associated with a tower, or following other conditions specified in the regulations.
- Use a laboratory approved by NYSDOH to perform Legionella culture analyses.
Laboratories certified to perform testing by NYSDOH. (Use the drop down menus to narrow your search options)
- Notify the WCDH within 24 hours of getting a Legionella culture sample result exceeding 1,000 colony-forming units (CFU) per milliliter (mL). The owner of the cooling tower must notify the public in a manner determined by the WCDH or NYSDOH.
- Use only pesticide applicators or technicians certified by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to apply biocides for disinfection. The certification requirement does not apply to cleaning with detergents or other non-pesticide products.
- Inspect cooling towers prior to seasonal start-up, following maintenance, and at intervals not to exceed 90 days while the cooling tower is in use.
- Provide appropriate response actions, in accordance with the provisions of Subpart 4-1, Appendix 4-A, when Legionella culture sampling results are equal to or greater than 20 CFU/mL.
- Certify by November 1st of each year that each cooling tower has a maintenance program and plan, that it has been followed, and that all requirements of the regulation have been met.
- Ensure that inspections and certifications are performed by either a New York State licensed professional engineer, certified industrial hygienist, certified water technologist, environmental consultant or water treatment professional, with training and experience performing inspections in accordance with current standard industry protocols.
- Retain records for a minimum of three years of all sampling and analyses, disinfection schedules, inspection findings, deficiencies, corrective actions, and certifications. The maintenance program and plan shall be retained on the premises where the cooling tower is located.
The new regulations also require hospitals and residential health care facilities to:
- Perform or update an environmental assessment by September 1, 2016. The purpose of this assessment is to evaluate the building and the potable water systems, and identify sampling locations.
- Adopt and implement a sampling and management plan by December 1, 2016 for potable water systems, which includes routine Legionella culture sampling and analysis and immediate Legionella sampling and analysis under specific conditions, including where NYSDOH determines that one or more cases of legionellosis is or may be associated with the facility.
- Conduct Legionella culture sampling and analysis at intervals no greater than 90 days for the first year and annually thereafter. Potable water systems that serve stem cell or organ transplant patients must be sampled and analyzed at intervals not to exceed 90 days.
- Use a laboratory approved by NYSDOH to do Legionella culture analyses.
For more information, please contact the Westchester County Department of Health at (914) 813-5000, or the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Water Supply Protection at (518) 402-7650 or email Cooling.Tower@health.ny.gov.