Legionnaires’ outbreak spurs important law by Council

New York City recently experienced its most acute outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease, resulting in 12 deaths and 115 left ill in the South Bronx.

Last Thursday, the City Council passed a law to combat this very serious public health risk, which REBNY and our members support. By memorializing responsible regulations and requirements for registration of building systems and the proper maintenance of cooling towers, we can work towards eliminating at least one potential source of future outbreaks of Legionnaire’s Disease.

The legislation requires all buildings with a cooling tower to register their equipment with the Department of Buildings within 30 days of the bill becoming law. Additionally, it requires all cooling towers and associated equipment to begin testing for microbes quarterly and to create a maintenance program that complies with sections of ASHRAE 188-2015 by March 2, 2016.  The legislation also requires systems to be cleaned and disinfected if the cooling tower has been shut down for more than 5 days.

There were a few specific proposals in the legislation which REBNY weighed in on in order to make the bill -Intro. No. 866 – more efficient and achievable.

REBNY’s comments contributed to extending the deadline for developing a maintenance plan from 60 days to 6 months since that the standard was released in June 2015, and our industry was not yet fully prepared to widely adopt it in such a short time frame.

REBNY also advocated for a longer timeframe for disinfecting cooling towers when a system is shut down.  The original bill required action after three days, which was too frequent and could have resulted in several unnecessary and disruptive disinfections per year, which could also become quite costly.

Additionally, we believed that the requirements for disinfecting a cooling tower should be tied to the time period that the cooling tower is shut down, rather than the cooling system, which can be idle due to a decrease in outside temperature.

After raising the issue with City Council, the cleaning and disinfection trigger has been raised to five days of extended cooling tower shutdown, rather than system shutdown.

Additionally, penalties are now at least $2,000 for the first violation, up to $5,000 for the second (or subsequent), up to $10,000 if someone was seriously hurt or killed as a result, and up to year in prison and up to a $25,000 fine if the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has issued as order to clean (after the owner has failed to clean on their own) and the owner refuses to clean.

The most severe penalties mirror language that already exists in the Health Code.

REBNY lauds the Governor, Mayor, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Corey Johnson, Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, and the entire City’s efforts and response to this outbreak, and we and our members will continue to work along with the public officials to help in whatever way we can. We remain confident that New York will pull through this stronger than ever and more prepared to combat the next threat to our public health and safety. In other REBNY news:

August 27th is REBNY’s Summer Seminar. The seminar is for REBNY members only, and registration is required. Check rebny.com or contact Yesenia Dhanraj at YDhanraj@rebny.com for more details.

REBNY’s next Residential Rental Clinic Seminar in September 11th from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m in the Mendik Education Center. Presented by Daniel Marrello of Town Fifth Avenue LLC and Douglas Wagner of Bond NY Properties LLC, join fellow REBNY members in this exciting seminar that will teach you more about how to expand and improve your residential real estate business. For more information, contact Yesenia Dhanraj at YDhanraj@rebny.com.

The City has developed a new e-cycleNYC program to assist residential buildings in complying with a new law which makes it illegal for New Yorkers to discard electronics in the trash. Residential buildings wishing to participate in this free program will be required to sign a Site Sponsor Agreement, and REBNY’s Residential Management Council and its legal team have reviewed the Terms of Agreement with the Department of Sanitation and ERI, who have agreed to REBNY’s recommended changes. Special thanks to Ben Kirschenbaum, Eva Talel, and Michael Wolfe for dedicating their time and expertise on behalf of the industry.