Many eyes in the HVACR industry have been watching New York City this week as the city scrambles to respond to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the South Bronx. According to The New York Times, 12 deaths have been reported from the illness and at least 122 people have been infected so far. It is the largest outbreak in the city’s history.
According to news sources, the outbreak was traced to cooling towers. Now, buildings with water cooling towers in New York are being required to test and disinfect equipment within the next two weeks. Failure to do so could result in a misdemeanor. One of the major causes of Legionella bacteria is not keeping up with maintenance and cleaning schedules.
Many HVAC contractors say that prevention is the key to dealing with the dangerous bacteria. Ann Kahn, president of Kahn Mechanical Contractors in Dallas, said her company has found several contaminated pieces of equipment and she is constantly concerned about technician safety in an article published by The NEWS about ASHRAE’s new standard, “Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems.” ASHRAE’s standard, released earlier this year, provides guidance for the HVAC industry on legionellosis and establishes minimum legionellosis risk management requirements for building water systems.
“We can sell our customers on keeping their equipment as clean as possible, and do the best job we can to fulfill that sale,” Kahn said in the article. “Prevention is our best hope with all diseases.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease in the U.S. each year; however, only about 3,000 cases are reported to the CDC each year.
So the question is, why haven’t these building owners been maintaining and cleaning equipment to ensure the safety of building occupants? Additionally, how does the city expect to enforce this new requirement? What do you think? Tell us in the comments.