NSW local councils have been asked to comment on proposed changes to the regulation of water cooling towers in an attempt to prevent future outbreaks of Legionnaires Disease.
An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in March 2016 was tracked back to an infected water cooling tower in Sydney’s CBD and this spawned the NSW Health discussion paper asking councils for feedback on the new regulations.
Building owners – some of whom are councils – are responsible for checking water cooling towers every month, cleaning them every six months and getting them certified every year.
As well, local councils must keep a register of water-cooling systems in their area, including details about inspections.
Legionnaire bacteria can cause a nasty bacterial lung infection, which can be fatal in about 10 per cent of cases, and can be transmitted when a person breathes in contaminated water vapour, dust or soil.
Legoinnaire pneumophilia bacteria can contaminate airconditioning towers, spas and shower heads and they live in warm, stagnant water, making water cooling towers some of the riskiest sites.
Towers usually sit on top of large buildings forming part of the water-cooling system.
A pool of water is sprayed over pipes to cool the air inside the building and then recirculated, making the warm water susceptible to infiltration by bacteria. The infected water droplets can then drift out into the street.
The NSW Health recommendations include:
- Minimum standards for testing and inspecting water-cooling towers
- Independently audited risk management plans for operating and testing cooling towers
- Testing laboratories to notify local councils of cooling tower test results where bacteria levels are elevated
- Local government can ask for additional testing and results, if needed
Submissions are due by February 9. Local Government NSW is putting in a submission and asking councils for their views.
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