More than 120 people in New York City contracted Legionnaires' disease and 12 others have died. Fourteen cooling towers in the city tested positive for Legionella, but there's some good news -- widespread testing of cooling towers and disinfection processes is underway. The New York City Council also rushed to adopt legislation that requires adherence to part of the new Legionella standard published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
But there’s another problem: Although this outbreak, occurring in the largest and most media-saturated city in the country, sheds much-needed light on a large and under-appreciated problem, it has obscured an even bigger threat to the public.
“Although cooling towers have often been a source of large outbreaks, many more cases of Legionnaires’ arise from drinking water systems in buildings – including showers, fountains and hot tubs,” says Tory Schira, COO of LiquiTech Environment Solutions. The company has worked for decades in the New York metro area to prevent Legionella and remediate problematic water systems using innovative copper silver ionization technology. Leaders in healthcare, hospitality and commercial development, such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, Lennox Hill Hospital, New York University, Rockefeller Center and Tishman Speyer have adopted LiquiTech disinfection technologies to be proactive on infection prevention and to ensure the safest possible environment of care for their patients, guests and staff.
The New York outbreak also highlights the need for regular testing of both drinking water systems and cooling towers. In both cases, Legionnaires' disease is contracted after the organism aerosolizes in water and people inhale the droplets containing Legionella. Though a few jurisdictions mandate some testing, most do not. In fact, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that keeping Legionella bacteria out of water is the key to preventing infection, it doesn’t require routine testing. To establish that you have no Legionella in either your drinking water or cooling towers, you need to use one of the many inexpensive tests, which are readily available.
“With proper monthly or quarterly water testing and a well-maintained system, Legionella in a facility’s water system can typically be driven to near zero for a cost of less than $100 per day,” Schira says. “As the New York City outbreak has shown, preventing an outbreak is far less expensive than incurring the human suffering, litigation and damage to reputation that an outbreak can cause.”