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City Plugs Leaks in Water Tank Inspection Rules

An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx killed 12 people and left more than 120 severely ill in 2015. The culprit was an improperly maintained water cooling tower, a component of central air-conditioning systems. The tragedy prompted the city council to pass new rules on tower inspections that are among the toughest in the nation. Despite those rules, a fresh outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease sickened a dozen people in downtown Flushing, Queens, last October.

Co-op and condo boards and their property managers should be aware of the latest move by the city government to protect the city’s water – in this case, its drinking water. A law that went into effect in December seeks to make it easier for city residents to learn the results of required annual inspections of their rooftop water tanks. Sponsored by Daniel Garodnick, who left the city council at the end of the year because of term limits, the new law codifies the requirement for buildings to submit annual water tank inspection results to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

The law also requires the department to post documentation of annual inspections on its website and also on the city’s Open Data portal. The department must provide guidance on its site to assist users in determining whether a building is required to have a water tank inspection and to post information on how to submit a complaint about a water tank or water from a water tank. This law re-instates a lapsed requirement of annual reporting by DOHMH to the city council on water tank inspections.

“New York City is known to have some of the best tap water in the world, yet, for too long, the inspection results for residential water tanks were shrouded in secrecy,” Garodnick says. “This legislation bolsters transparency and accountability in reporting these results, better ensuring that our water is safe to drink.”

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