Preventing Legionella

Legionnaires’ disease may not make front-page news every week, but when it hits a community, it can be devastating.  Hotels with pools and hot tubs, property owners with buildings that have cooling towers or fountains—and anyone nearby can be affected. If the naturally occurring bacterium Legionella gets out of balance, it can make people very sick, and it causes fatalities every year. Sometimes, all it takes is the mist coming off a cooling tower to infect a host of people.

Last year we reported on Legionella cases in New York City’s Upper East Side, where 24 out of 116 cooling towers in the Lennox Hill neighborhood tested positive for Legionella bacteria that could (and did) cause illness. In 2015, 120 became ill and 12 people died in the Bronx from Legionnaires’ disease. Legionella commonly spreads through water mist or vapor in the air, and it grows especially well in warm water.

The NY Department of Health mandates that buildings with cooling towers perform these four steps:

  1. Register the cooling tower
  2. Analyze samples
  3. Disinfect and treat
  4. Certify your cooling tower annually

Prevention is not only important, it’s the law, so check out these vital steps to keep your guests and residents safe from Legionella. We lay out all the nuts and bolts of maintaining cooler towers, cold and hot water tanks, and enforcing a clean water system. You can download our checklist on Controlling Exposures to Legionella.