In 2015, New York City made history as the first major metropolis to enact official Legionella prevention and cooling tower management regulations, known as Local Law 77. Yet this bacteria and the often-lethal form of pneumonia it causes, Legionnaires' disease, are not relegated to just the Big Apple, or even the Empire State. Legionella, its deadly effects, and proper compliance with ASHRAE 188 are important issues for municipalities, building owners, and cooling tower operators across the United States.
A Growing Health Issue.
Since 2015, there have been more than 6,000 cases of Legionnaires' disease reported annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2017 alone witnessed 16.3 percent more cases than the previous year, and nearly four times as many as 15 years ago. It's not just major urban centers that are at risk, either. Since Legionella can be present in any water cooling tower, owners and managers of any large public space should also take preventive measures to safeguard against this dangerous bacteria.
Hospitals, office buildings and universities—even those far from large cities—are just as vulnerable to developing Legionella.
Though New York has initiated proactive steps to address such concerns, there have been serious outbreaks in other states as well, including Connecticut, Ohio, Florida and Michigan. At Disneyland in California, two cooling towers with elevated levels of the Legionella bacteria were shut down after 12 visitors to the park and/or nearby areas contracted Legionnaires' disease. One of those people died.
A Growing Conversation.
Such widespread outbreaks prompted global public health and safety group NSF International and independent U.S. agency the National Science Foundation (NSF) to host the first-ever Legionella Conference 2018. For three days this past May, experts met in Baltimore, Maryland to discuss Legionella and other water-based pathogens affecting cooling towers and plumbing systems. The 450 attendees not only included experts from industry, the public health sector, academia and medicine, but also federal agencies such as the CDC and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
According to a statement by Dave Purkiss, VP of the Global Water Division at NSF International, the goal of the conference was to "gather together all the different stakeholders and a diverse group of experts and thought leaders to share ideas and discuss ways of detecting, mitigating and preventing Legionella outbreaks."
In terms of ways to detect, mitigate and prevent Legionnaires' outbreaks, the possibility of national regulations is not unthinkable.
"Controlling Legionnaires’ disease will require a universal, preventive-based approach by a bevy of stakeholders ranging from building owners to hospital administrators, from public health officials to policymakers, and from scientists to water system engineers," states an article about the conference on NSF International's website.
And though no federal legislation has been formally introduced yet, the inherent risks of Legionella, its growing prevalence, and deadly fallout have been gaining considerable national attention. With this growing conversation reaching the ears of federal organizations with the power to influence policy, if not to enact it themselves, it is likely that Local Law 77 will go national in the future.
While conference attendees agreed that standardization and enforcement of Legionella regulations on a national scale was crucial to preventing outbreaks, they were also concerned that a major roadblock for such regulations could be the question of feasibility. Could building owners be reasonably expected to remain compliant when the current best practices for Legionella prevention and management already involve so many stakeholders and steps?
With Vitralogy, the answer is a resounding "Yes."
When these regulations do go into effect, building owners and managers will likely be ill-prepared to handle the comprehensive process associated with remaining Legionella-compliant on their own—a scenario all-too common among cooling tower operators and related parties in New York.
That's where Vitralogy's innovative platform comes in. It fully automates cooling tower data with logic-driven decisions to trigger events, tasks and reminders based on the very processes mandated by the law, to help ensure compliance and protect against Legionella, Legionnaires' disease, and other associated illnesses resulting from unregulated, untested, and unmonitored water supplies.