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New Law for NYC Cooling Towers Signed by Mayor

A new law has been introduced by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio following a devastating outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease earlier this summer. The deadly outbreak covered the South Bronx area of NYC and is blamed for twelve deaths. A Reuters Health article discusses the new law and the reason it was a necessary step in avoiding preventable deaths.

The outbreak has been tied to bacteria hiding in the air conditioning cooling towers of various buildings. The towers can become hosts for Legionella bacteria, which can subsequently be inhaled by those within the building. 124 people were sickened in the South Bronx as a result.

The new law focuses on increasing the diligence of the maintenance and inspection of the units. The law, which is largely unprecedented, will require quarterly examinations to be completed on air conditioning towers. Those found to contain unhealthy levels of bacteria during the inspection must be reported and treated. All building owners must register their cooling towers within 30 days of the law’s passing or face a fine of up to $25,000 for failure to comply with the statute.

The city administration hopes that this law will serve as a model for future communities who seek protection from similar outbreaks. After enduring this summer’s outbreak, preventing further outbreaks will be a high priority item for the administration going forward.

While New York City appears to be working toward establishing positive steps in the prevention of Legionnaires’ bacteria outbreaks, the bacteria was also recently discovered in the water systems of multiple buildings at West Chester University, outside of Philadelphia. This was the second time the bacteria was discovered on the campus this year and resulted in the closure of multiple buildings for cleaning of their water systems. One employee was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, which is described a severe form of pneumonia. A West Chester spokesperson minimizes the report, saying that “[t]here’s really no immediate cause for concern.”

The Mayo Clinic site lists the symptoms often associated with Legionnaires’ disease. While having information such as the Mayo Clinic is convenient, anyone that believes they might be suffering from the illness or any other serious medical condition should immediately seek medical treatment from a physician.