Cuomo approves statewide rules to fight Legionnaires' disease

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York is now requiring the testing and inspection of building cooling towers across the state to combat Legionnaires' disease following an outbreak in New York City that killed 12 people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

Under the emergency health regulations, all owners of buildings with cooling towers will be required to register the structures with the state health department within 30 days. The cooling towers must be regularly tested for Legionella bacteria. And any contaminated towers must be disinfected immediately.

The regulations also spell out inspection requirements and penalties for violations of the testing rules.

"This summer's outbreak of Legionnaires' disease caused concern in communities across the state, and today we are moving forward to help prevent future outbreaks and keep our neighborhoods safe," the Democratic governor said in a statement. "I want to reassure all New Yorkers: We are addressing the problem at its source and protecting the public health, statewide."

The statement also announced the creation of a tip line, 1-888-769-7243, for questions about the new regulations.

Cooling towers in the Bronx are believed to have housed Legionella bacteria that led to the largest outbreak of the disease in New York City history. There have been 121 cases of the disease, which is a type of pneumonia that can be especially dangerous to the elderly and those with underlying health issues. Before the outbreak, no city records were kept as to which buildings had cooling towers.

The response to the outbreak by city officials and the state highlighted an apparent turf war between Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Cuomo's office said Monday that the new statewide regulations were drafted in consultation with City Hall and the City Council, which last week passed new city regulations requiring inspections and cleanings of cooling towers.

No new cases of the disease have been reported since Aug. 3.