Legislation is part of a City-State Collaboration Between Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
Cooling Tower Regulation Bill sponsored by Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Members Vanessa Gibson, Corey Johnson, and Jumaane Williams
City Hall – Today the City Council will vote on legislation that will help prevent future cases of Legionnaires’ Disease in New York City. Public health officials have linked the recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease in New York City to emissions from cooling towers of buildings in the South Bronx. Future outbreaks might be prevented by more frequently inspecting such towers. The State has agreed to use the legislation as a framework when they promulgate new rules.
The bill, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Council Member Corey Johnson and Council Member Jumaane Williams in conjunction with Mayor de Blasio, would require that all cooling towers be registered with the Department of Buildings (DOB). Existing cooling towers must be registered within 30 days of the law’s enactment and new cooling towers must be registered prior to becoming operational. Owners of buildings that include cooling towers will be required to conduct quarterly inspections in accordance with Department of Health and Mental Hygiene regulations, and provide annual certification that cooling towers have been inspected, tested, cleaned and disinfected to the DOB. Owners will also be required to develop and implement a maintenance plan and program conforming with current engineering standards to prevent Legionella contamination. Failure to register or submit annual certification will constitute a major violation, subject to penalty by the DOB.
Failure to comply with other requirements of the bill would result in penalties including:
• Up to $2,000 civil penalty for a first violation
• Up to $5,000 civil penalty for a second or subsequent violation
• Up to $10,000 civil penalty if someone is seriously hurt or killed as a result of the violation
• Up to 1 year in prison, together with a fine of up to $25,000, for failing to obey an order from DOHMH requiring cleaning and disinfection
“As the city works to ensure that everyone who is suffering from Legionnaires’ disease is getting proper treatment, we must also look to the source of the problem,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We’re in the midst of a crisis in New York City, and this Council is taking swift action to address what is happening. I’d like to thank Council Members Vanessa Gibson, Corey Johnson, and Jumaane Williams for their strong leadership throughout this process, and all my colleagues for their quick action in the face of a crisis. I’d also like to extend my gratitude to Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Bassett and Commissioner Zucker for their cooperation in bringing different levels of government together to address this issue.”
“New York State should have the strongest laws possible when it comes to protecting public health,” Governor Cuomo said. “Today’s action by our partners in New York City is a positive step forward in achieving that goal. In the coming days we will adopt statewide regulations to ensure the same, rigorous uniform standard protects every community from the Bronx to Buffalo.”
“I applaud the Council for taking quick action to protect New Yorkers with this groundbreaking legislation, and the State for moving swiftly to enact this policy statewide with new regulations that mirror this bill. New York City and the New York State are leading the nation in establishing standards to register, clean and monitor cooling towers in order to reduce risk of Legionnaires’ disease,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “As the current outbreak tapers off, we will now have a preventative solution in place to protect New Yorkers from this type of outbreak in the future.”
“The legislation we put forth today is a significant step of progress in our efforts to address Legionnaire’s Disease on a municipal level. I am proud of this legislation and I am confident it represents the answer to a comprehensive call to action that I and so many in the Bronx have been making since the start of this outbreak. By requiring the regular maintenance, cleaning, and inspection systems that filter the air we breathe, this Council will enact groundbreaking public health legislation sure to protect New Yorkers for years to come. I am thankful to the Mayor and the Speaker for fast tracking this important legislation and, as always, my thoughts and prayers continue to be those who have been impacted by this outbreak,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson
“We must do everything we can to proactively prevent outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, which is why legislation requiring regular inspections and testing of cooling towers is extremely important. Without proper maintenance, cooling towers can accrue an overgrowth of legionella, causing what has proven to be a fatal outcome for far too many New Yorkers. As Chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, I am proud to work with our administration to expedite this bill and solve this crisis through a collaborative citywide effort,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), Deputy Leader and Chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee.
“Today the New York City Council is taking decisive action to prevent future outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Health. “By implementing new, common sense regulations for cooling towers, this legislation is a model for states and jurisdictions that are also grappling with the threat of the disease. I want to thank Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for their leadership during this crisis. This bill is also the result of strong leadership from Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Members Vanessa Gibson, Jumaane Williams and my fellow colleagues in the City Council.”