In 2015, New York City passed some of the most sweeping and strict laws addressing the growing public health concerns related to Legionella, the bacteria responsible for the spread of Legionnaires’ Disease.
Today, if you own a building with a cooling tower in New York City, failing to comply with these incredibly specific laws can result in steep fines and irreparable damage to your brand.
But what exactly are the responsibilities of NYC building owners? To help you better understand the specific NYC & NYS cooling tower laws, we’ll take a look at how building owners can protect their building and their investment in water treatment services.
Please note that this article is intended for informational purposes only.
New York City Legionella Laws: Looking Back from 2015 Until Now
After the a deadly legionella outbreak occurred during the summer of 2015 leaving 133 sick and 6 dead, the New York City and New York State legislatures passed separate measures to register and monitor all cooling towers located within the City and State.
New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, Title 10 – Part 4: Protection Against Legionella which is given its power by Statutory Authority: Public Health Law, section 225(5)(a); NYC Local Law 77 (2015); and Chapter 8 (Cooling Towers) of Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York, were passed as a result of the 2015 outbreak. Combined these laws are the most protective legionella laws ever passed.
Cooling Tower Registration and Annual Certifications in NYC
Among the legislation passed by New York City and New York State, building owners and property managers are required to register cooling towers, fluid coolers and evaporative condensers with the City through their online Cooling Tower Web Portal.
Once a building is registered with the City, building owners must also file an Annual Certification verifying that all cooling equipment was inspected, tested, cleaned, and disinfected in accordance to the building’s approved Maintenance Program and Plan.
Failure to have a Maintenance Program and Plan or an Annual Certification can result in expensive fines issued by the New York City Department of Buildings.
NYC Cooling Tower Assessments & Inspections: What You Can Expect When the Inspector Comes to Visit
With any cooling tower inspection in New York City, here is what all building owners and property managers can expect to encounter:
Annual Cooling Tower Inspection – Each year, an Inspector from the New York City Department of Health’s Office of Building Water Supply Oversight conducts a formal inspection of cooling tower systems, maintenance programs and plans, and operational records. During their investigation, inspectors will also look at water tanks, evaporative condensers, internal plumbing and wastewater systems throughout each facility, and they may also collect environmental samples for testing. As part of their inspection, investigators will also look to make sure maintenance programs and plans are complete, ongoing, and in place with the help of a qualified professional onsite, who should conduct routine compliance inspections at least once every 90 days. Compliance inspections include routine system monitoring, maintenance, and water quality monitoring, as well as verifying that the proper chemical and biocide treatments are being used. Fines can levied against any building owner without the proper plans, testing, equipment and chemicals in place.
Inspection Summary Report (ISR) – After conducting the inspection, the DOH Inspector will provide the building owner or property manager with an Inspection Summary Report. An ISR is issued either immediately following the inspection or via email to the registered owner of the building up to 2 weeks after the onsite inspection. The ISR will list specific codes of law and whether or not the building was compliant with regards to that specific component. Each rule will be listed with a status of “Compliant” or “Violation.”
Violation Deficiency Report (VDR) – After the Inspection Summary Report has been issued, the report is then sent to the Department of Health’s Compliance Team, where it will be reviewed and the findings of any violations will be recorded in a Violation Deficiency Report (VDR). This report is also delivered by email to the registered building owner, generally within 30 days of the onsite inspection. The VDR will note what specifically garnered the violation and the cure period, if there are any.
Notice of Violation (Summons) – Typically if a violation is recorded a Notice of Violation and Summons will be issued along with a scheduled hearing date. While not all violations require the hearing to be attended, violations frequently come with steep fines and bad publicity that can negatively affect your brand and business’s bottom line.
Satisfying the Summons – Depending on the severity of the violation recorded, building owners and property managers will likely have two options to resolve the issue. The first option is to pay the violation fines either by mail, in person or online through the NYC Building’s Web Portal. By paying the fines, just as with any motor vehicle ticket, building owner’s essentially take responsibility for the violation and waive their right to appeal. However, if you want to dispute the violation, you’ll most likely need to attend the hearing to present your defense. At the hearing, a Hearing Office will assess the situation and issue findings based on the case. If the Hearing Office finds in your favor then the violation and fines may be waived, however if they are not, you’ll be asked to pay the penalties associated for each of the violations. If the fines associated with these violations are not paid, the City may seek to enter a judgment against you with the Civil Court of New York City and the Department of Finance may begin collection activities against you as well.
Certificate of Correction – In cases of cooling tower violations, Notices of Violations can often come along with an order to correct the conditions found to be in violation. A Certificate of Correction must be filed with the Department of Buildings to ensure compliance and resolve all DOB violations. After the findings of the hearing this final step must be completed – Certificates of Correction must be submitted directly to the DOB outside of the hearing once the issue is entirely resolved. Documents should be submitted by mail or in person to: NYC Department of Buildings, Attn: Administrative Enforcement Unit, 280 Broadway, 5th Floor, New York, NY, 10007. Office hours are 8:30am – 4pm. For more information about filing a Certificate of Correction, visit the NYC Department of Buildings’ website.
Compliance with NYC & NYS Cooling Tower Laws
While cooling tower laws for New York State and City are incredibly specific, below is an abbreviated list of the requirements needed for buildings to be compliant.
- Register all existing and new cooling towers with the New York City Cooling Tower Registration and the New York State Cooling Tower Registration
- Securely affix the New York City Department of Buildings Cooling Tower Registration Number to the outside of each cooling tower/evaporative condenser in a clearly visible location. You should have one number per cooling tower system on your property.
- Test each cooling tower for Legionella every at least once every 90 days by a qualified person onsite.
- Perform daily and weekly monitoring of chemical treatments, water quality, and microbial monitoring. All findings should be recorded and kept to present to Inspectors from the Department of Health and Buildings.
- Develop and follow a Cooling Tower Maintenance Program & Plan (MPP) in line with the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE 188-2015) Standard. This plan is NOT optional and needs to be developed and managed by an onsite “qualified person” as defined by the City of New York. A qualified person for the purpose of this definition is 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 operation experience in water management planning and operation.
- Annually certify that cooling towers were inspected, tested, cleaned, and disinfected as required by Local Law 77, New York City Chapter 8 Rules, and New York State’s Emergency Regulations.
- If a cooling tower is shut down without water treatment or recirculation for longer than 5 days, the tower must be cleaned, drained, and disinfected before use.
- All records of cleanings and treatments must be kept for three years.
- Perform inspections with a qualified person every 90 days the tower is in use.
- Conduct a yearly Compliance Inspection and submit the findings to the City through the online cooling tower portal.
Tower Water provides comprehensive cooling tower water treatment services throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. As industry experts for nearly 30 years, our highly qualified and trained team of water treatment specialist can help with you all of your water treatment consulting, testing, and compliance solutions to help keep your business and building in compliance.
Tower Water is not responsible for the accuracy or implementation of this document. This article is for informational purposes only. By using this article in any way, you agree to fully defend, indemnify and hold harmless Tower Water 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 Tower Water or its agents or employees that may arise in use of this document.
About Tower Water
In 1992, Tower Water launched as a cooling tower cleaning company. With vast experience and knowledge in the New York City-Metropolitan area, Tower Water has grown from a 2-person business into a 25-employee fleet with over 50 vehicles and response units. Tower Water is a premier provider of water treatment services throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. Our experience and expertise, our dedication and our personal approach lead directly to very satisfied clients. Large and high profile or small with a single-system, regardless of size all benefit from Tower Water’s deep commitment.