Aug. 20, 2015

New York City experienced an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Bronx during July and August, 2015. By mid-August, when the outbreak was declared contained, there were more than 110 confirmed cases and 12 deaths. Health inspectors traced the cause to contaminated cooling systems of five public places.

Cooling towers are part of the cooling systems of many modern buildings, and are used to reject heat into the atmosphere.

On August 6th, in response to the outbreak, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued an emergency blanket order for all owners/managers (or anyone who controls) buildings with cooling towers to have an assessment done of their cooling towers and regardless of the outcome of that assessment, to then carry out a disinfection/treatment of those tower(s).

On August 17th, the New York State Department of Health followed the New York City Department of Health and issued an emergency order requiring cooling tower registration throughout the State and requiring legionella testing of those towers with associated remedial actions based on the results of those tests.

To prevent future outbreaks, New York City and New York State have enacted new legislation to mandate quarterly inspections of cooling towers across the entire State. New York City’s regulation is referred to as Local Law 77 of 2015.

What You Need to Know:

Both the City and State regulations stipulate that you must (within 30 days)register your cooling tower and implement quarterly inspections and testing, with annual certification due November 1st of 2016 and annually thereafter.

Further, each building with a cooling tower shall implement a maintenance program in accordance with ASHRAE 188-2015. This program must be in place by March 1, 2016.

Building owners/managers must:

In summary, the key points of the new regulations are:

  • Disinfect/clean any tower that is offline for more than 5 days.
  • Inspect and test towers every 90 days for Legionella, and record the results.
  • Produce a certificate of compliance annually stating that the tower has been tested, disinfected, cleaned and inspected per New York State and New York City regulations.
  • Keep a record of the plan and results near the cooling tower.


  • Healthcare facilities have the additional mandate to include potable water systems.
  • The company doing the disinfecting must have a 7G Pesticide Applicators License.
  • An official can enter a building or establishment at any time and ask for the records. If no records or plan is in place, the owner may be subjected to penalties.

For information about how to comply with the New York City Order, you may contact 311 or go to