New York City

De Blasio Signs Legislation Regulating Cooling Towers Amid Legionnaires’ Outbreak

Mayor de Blasio signed legislation Tuesday requiring inspection of cooling towers amid the largest outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in New York City history.

The signing came less than a day after Gov. Cuomo announced statewide regulations under which owners of buildings with cooling towers must register the structures with the state health department within 30 days.

"We must minimize the odds of any future outbreaks," de Blasio said before signing the legislation. "When it comes to New Yorkers’ health, we won’t take any chances."

Twelve people have died as a result of the outbreak.

New York is now the first major city in the United States to regulate cooling towers, he said.

The cooling towers must be tested regularly for Legionella bacteria; any found to be contaminated must be disinfected immediately. The regulations specify penalties for violations.

A tip line, 1-888-769-7243, has been created for questions about the new regulations.

Cooling towers in the Bronx are believed to have housed Legionella bacteria that led to the current outbreak, which has sickened 127 people, killing 12 of them. The disease 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 cooling towers represent a particular concern because they are outdoors and can spread a contaminated mist through an entire community, said Dr. Mary Bassett, New York City's health commissioner.

The response to the outbreak by city officials and the state highlighted an apparent turf war between Cuomo and 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, but Bronx residents at a town hall meeting Monday night at Hostos Community College weren't entirely comforted. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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