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Now the City Is Tightening Rules on Drinking Water Tanks

New York City

Water Tank Rules
April 9, 2019

After an outbreak of deadly Legionnaires’ disease, the city cracked down on the maintenance and inspection of rooftop water cooling towers that feed central air-conditioning systems. Now, after reports of contamination and lax oversight by city officials, the city council is tightening regulations of rooftop drinking-water tanks.

In a rebuke to city health officials, the New York City Council plans to pass seven new laws governing the city’s iconic rooftop tanks, City & State reports. The flurry of new rules comes after City & State documented cases of dead animals in New York City Housing Authority wooden water tanks – and health officials repeatedly dismissed the health risks posed by contamination of the drinking water supplies.

“While our existing laws are strong, this council is committed to ensuring that there are no loopholes or any opportunities to tamper with inspection results when it comes to our drinking water,” says Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “These new laws will further ensure compliance.”

The seven bills require the following: tank inspectors must submit annual reports with photos or videos directly to the health department; inspection results must be recorded before tanks are cleaned; only specially trained plumbers can inspect and clean tanks; damaged tanks must be repaired within 90 days; health officials must conduct their own unannounced spot checks of water tanks; and additional spot checks must be performed after harmful bacteria or a violation is found.

Council members touted the package of legislation, which will require more transparency and accountability – both from the thousands of building owners who have neglected their water tanks as well as from health regulators who have shown little interest in ratcheting up enforcement. “The Department of Health seems to take lightly the public health risk of bacterial growth in water tanks,” says councilman Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat.

The to-do lists of many co-op and condo boards and their property managers just got a little longer. Again.

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