What General Counsel Should Know About Legionnaires’ Disease

Articles & Publications

Today's General Counsel
October 2015

A recent outbreak in the South Bronx claimed 12 lives, left another 120 victims infected and put Legionnaires' disease back in the headlines. As is typical of such outbreaks, the case mounted quickly, with over a hundred diagnoses occurring in a 3 week period. As media attention grew, so did the pressure on public health agencies, who in turn unleashed investigators with orders to identify the source.

Suddenly, hundreds of building owners were faced with requests for water samples from every cooling tower under their control. Shortly thereafter, state and municipal legislators enacted regulations that require owners of cooling towers to register them and develop a cooling tower maintenance plan. The regulations require cooling towers to be periodically inspected and tested for microbes, including legionella, with immediate disinfection required when results are positive. It is expected that other states and municipalities will follow suit and pass similar legislation. 


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