NYC Mandates Cooling Tower Inspections

August 11, 2015

Rooftop Cooling Tower

Rooftop Cooling Tower

To reduce the risk of future Legionnaires’ Disease outbreaks, NYC is proposing stringent regulations for cooling tower inspections and sanctions for failure to comply with new standards.

The legislation is the first in the nation to provide for detailed requirements and oversight, including mandatory registration, testing and inspections of cooling towers.  Its provisions are designed to ensure adherence to industry standards for maintenance, cleaning and testing for microbes, and reporting of samples that present a serious health threat to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The Department launched an online cooling tower registration portal over this weekend and is encouraging all property owners and managers to register their unit. Registration can be done online at

Registration and Certification

Registration of cooling towers with the Department of Buildings prior to initial operation.

  • Registration of existing cooling towers with DOB within 60 days of the law taking effect.
  • Annual certification to DOB by owners or operators that cooling towers have been inspected, tested, cleaned and disinfected in accordance with DOHMH regulations.
  • Notification to DOB within 30 days of removing or permanently discontinuing cooling towers, with a statement that the cooling tower was cleaned and sanitized in compliance with DOHMH requirements.

Maintenance, Inspections and Testing of Cooling Towers

  • Development of a maintenance program and plan that is in accordance with the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard by building owners.
  • Inspections and testing of cooling towers by qualified persons on a quarterly basis when a building’s cooling tower in in use, and within 15 days before the initial use during any year. Inspections must include a test for the presence of microbes in the water of the cooling tower.
  • Establishment of acceptable methods of testing and laboratory analysis by DOHMH rule, including the acceptable methods of cleaning and disinfecting cooling towers, the levels of microbes in cooling towers that require mitigation to prevent health risks, and the levels of microbes that present a serious health threat and require immediate reporting to the Health Department, and cleaning and disinfecting.


  • Failure to register, notify discontinuance of use, or submit annual certification to the Department of Buildings shall be a major violation, punishable by a penalty to be established by DOB rule.
  • Health Department will inspect cooling towers and levy significant penalties for violations. In cases where an owner fails to disinfect or otherwise remediate as ordered, the Health Department will clean the tower and bill the owner.


  • DOHMH, in collaboration with DOB, would be required to provide an annual report for the next 10 years that includes data on compliance with this law.
  • DOHMH would also be required to provide recommendations concerning the expansion of these requirements to other water systems and equipment and the need for changes or updates to the maintenance and planning standards referenced in the law.







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