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Tight Rules on Cooling Towers Are Getting Tighter

Kathryn Farrell in Building Operations on June 7, 2019

New York City

Cooling Tower Regs
June 7, 2019

Most co-op and condo board members are aware of this dark chapter in New York City history. After an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease swept through the city and killed 12 people, city officials passed Local Law 77 of 2015, a series of regulations for cleaning and maintaining rooftop water-cooling towers, which feed central air-conditioning systems. The rules are among the most stringent in the nation. What many board members may not know is that after a flurry of violations of Local Law 77 – and several more outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease – amendments were passed earlier this year that will soon tighten the requirements set down in the law.

The current regulations require that all cooling towers be inspected every 90 days. Boards must also keep a Maintenance Program and Plan onsite for each cooling tower, test the water every week, and test for Legionella bacteria every 90 days. As part of a state requirement, the Legionella tests and 90-day inspections must be filed with the state.

Before this year, the 90-day inspection results were uploaded only to a state portal. Now, with implementation of Intro. 1149-B, Local Law 77 has been amended to require that those results must be uploaded to a city portal as well. The amendment goes into effect on September 21, 2019. “It goes further,” says Joe McEvoy, chief technology officer at Vitralogy, which offers compliance software specifically designed for Local Law 77. “The inspection essentially becomes an audit of your log book.”

Today, inspections are visual, and the subsequent reports are one or two pages. “[The inspectors] can get through it in probably half an hour,” McEvoy says. After September 21, he adds, “it’s going to have to become a records audit, meaning you will have to account for the corrective actions performed on the tower in the 90-day period and discuss other activities as well. It will be a huge burden on the people performing the inspections, and on buildings.”

In addition, when inspectors visit buildings, they will have the results of the various uploads and will be able to compare those uploads to the record books in the building to check for discrepancies.

The results of the inspection must also be made available on a new public website within five business days of a request, or within five business days of the receipt of the inspection results by the building owner.

While most co-op and condo boards pass these additional burdens on to their contracted professionals, it’s important for boards and their property managers to be aware of the new rules – and to make sure their professionals are adhering to them. The penalties for failure to do so are severe.

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