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NYC Cooling Tower Regulations: Are You In Compliance?


cooling tower regulations

Do you own a New York City/State building that has a cooling tower as part of your HVAC system? If so, you know about the new cooling tower regulations recently passed by the city and the state following last summer’s outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease.

We have been hearing about quite a few companies that have been getting violation notices and receiving hefty fines as a result of the city’s efforts to enforce Local Law 77 – 2015. If you’re one of them, or worried that it might happen to you, here is some clarification and advice that can help you get in compliance.

Here are some answers from Gary Berkowitz, Arista’s Manager of Chemical Cleanings and an expert in cooling tower maintenance and the new cooling tower regulations.

Q&A About NYC’s New Cooling Tower Regulations

Do I have to register to comply with cooling tower regulations, and how do I do so?
The new cooling tower regulations define a cooling tower as an open “tower, evaporative condenser or fluid cooler that is part of a recirculated water system incorporated into a building’s cooling, industrial process, refrigeration or energy production system.”

Any owner of a building with an existing cooling tower must register the tower with the State Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. All new cooling towers must also be registered prior to initial operation. There is no cost to register a cooling tower with the State or City at this time. The registration of the cooling tower is mandatory and failure to do so will result in a fine. Click the link below for the New York State website to register your cooling tower.

Register your cooling tower for the first time
Renew your cooling tower registration

Besides registration, what do the new cooling tower regulations require?
Any owner of a building with a cooling tower must obtain and implement a maintenance program and an ASHRAE 188 Water Safety Plan which must be in effect by March 1st, 2016.

Maintenance program. To comply with cooling tower regulations, a cooling tower in use seasonally or year round will require two cleaning and disinfections per year. Your maintenance program must also include quarterly Legionella testing, quarterly inspections, chemical metering equipment, and weekly Dipslide or bacteria testing. Cooling tower water is required to be tested three times a week and the results logged into the maintenance plan.

Related article: HVAC Cooling Tower Maintenance Checklist

Inspection. Cooling towers in use must be inspected quarterly by qualified persons with an evaluation that includes the following:

  • The cooling tower and associated equipment must be inspected for the presence of organic material, biofilm, algae, and other visible contaminants.
  • Quarterly Legionella testing is required and must be performed at a certified laboratory.
  • The overall conditions of the sump basin, eliminators, fill material, water make up connections and controls must be inspected. Proper functioning of the conductivity controller and chemical metering equipment including solenoid bleed must be part of the overall inspection.

Chemical metering and water treatment. All cooling tower end users will require the services of a water treatment company and proper chemical monitoring and metering equipment.

Culture Sample Testing & Tower Disinfection. Any owner of a building with a cooling tower must collect samples and obtain culture testing every 90 days, or in accordance with a maintenance program and plan obtained by the building owner. Immediate disinfection is required if culture sample testing demonstrates a need.

ASHRAE 188 Water Safety Plan. The plan must include a schedule for routine sampling, as well as procedures for emergency testing and disinfection to destroy Legionella bacteria. Owners must maintain a copy of the plan on the premises where a cooling tower is located, and make it available immediately upon request.

Learn how to put together your ASHRAE Water Safety Plan without wading through the entire standard. Get this FREE quick reference guide that explains the basics: 6 Steps to Developing an ASHRAE Water Safety Plan for Your Cooling Tower.

Compliance reporting. In addition to registration of cooling towers, all actions required by the new cooling tower regulations must be reported to the electronic system, within 10 days of such actions being taken. Reports must be generated every three months by the company performing compliance services and in some cases a Consultant who will supervise the water treatment company to ensure compliance. The reports must be added to the New York City Department of Health website where you are registered.

Submit reports

What’s the timeline for compliance with the cooling tower regulations?
The NYC cooling tower regulations require your maintenance program and ASHRAE 188 Water Safety Plan to be in effect by March 1st, 2016. If you have not yet filed a plan, you must do so immediately.

In addition, all cooling towers must be inspected every 90 days. Cooling towers must be certified as complying with all regulatory requirements (both New York’s new cooling tower regulations and ASHRAE Standard 188) by November 1, 2016, and thereafter annually by November 1 of each year. This includes all required responses to bacteria results and all required reporting to Authorities having Jurisdiction.

How is compliance enforced?
The New York City Department of Health will be sending inspectors to make sure you are in compliance with the new cooling tower regulations. An officer, employee or agent of the Department of Health may enter onto any property to inspect the cooling tower for compliance with the requirements of the cooling tower regulations. If an owner does not properly register, certify, inspect, clean or disinfect their cooling tower the Department of Health may determine that such condition constitutes a nuisance and may take such action as authorized by law.

If you have received a violation, this article provides some helpful advice: Cooling Tower Violations: What To Know and What to Do Now?.