FirstService Residential Pilots Health Department's Residential Cooling Tower Training
New York City’s cooling tower law, Local Law 77 of 2015, is the most comprehensive of its kind in the nation. The law requires building owners to inspect, clean, disinfect and test all cooling towers, as well as annually certify each tower.
When not properly maintained, cooling towers can support the growth of Legionella bacteria, creating a risk of Legionnaires’ disease.
FirstService Residential manages 120 buildings with cooling tower systems. Last year, amid widespread confusion in the industry concerning the specific mandates established by the city, we identified an opportunity, and a very explicit need, to spearhead education on cooling tower systems and requirements.
As the leading property management company in New York City, FirstService Residential owned the responsibility of forming a committee comprised of our senior property management executives, compliance team, and members of our FirstService Energy and FS Project Management subsidiaries.
Our committee was charged with providing recommendations that would 1) safeguard the well-being of our residents, 2) help our property managers and building operators better understand the law’s requirements, 3) ensure our water treatment and repair vendors are performing reliable and efficient services, and 4) help our properties fulfill their compliance requirements.
Over the course of several months, our committee reviewed the law in explicit detail, consulted with 10 chemical treatment vendors and technology providers, reviewed maintenance program and plans (MPPs) and spot-checked buildings to review their compliance binders and equipment set-ups.
Our committee uncovered many variations of implementation – not only from building to building, but also from vendor to vendor. Given the extent of confusion, we determined a proactive approach was needed to correct the problem.
As the chief priority was to impart proper and exceptional education within the industry, FirstService Residential leveraged its relationship with the NYC Health Department to form a partnership that yielded a series of training seminars for property managers and building operators covering Local Law 77. An invitation was extended to the city’s resident manager organizations and to every residential and commercial operator registered with the city.
“Improving Management and Compliance of Cooling Towers,” an intensive, two-hour seminar led by experts from DOHMH’s Office of Building Water Supply Oversight, Bureau of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, drew nearly 400 attendees.
The Health Department will begin offering quarterly training sessions in 2018 to help property managers and building operators comply with the law. We were delighted to organize the department’s inaugural training on this topic which supports our commitment to continuing education.
Following are key recommendations from the committee:
- Each group – the chemical treatment vendor, mechanical contractor, and building staff (”responsible person”) – should be aware of each other’s responsibilities.
- Ensure onsite staff know what to do and who to contact if testing results are high.
- Create a back-up plan for when the responsible person(s) is away. Missing one day of inspection or testing can leave the building vulnerable.
- The Maintenance Program Plan (MPP) should be created by the vendor that performs the monthly treatment and cleaning.
- The responsible individuals should meet with the treatment vendor monthly, quarterly, and annually to check the binder, treatment equipment, and tower.
- Meet with the treatment vendor annually to close out the compliance binder, re-review testing requirements with all staff, and open a new compliance binder.
- Ensure the compliance binder is available for inspection at all times.
- Material safety data sheets (MSDS) must be kept for all chemicals and biocides used in the tower.
- Complete documentation is required for all mechanical repairs, maintenance and other issues.
- Ensure your chemical treatment vendor has the staff and resources required of your building, including emergency service, certified technicians, timely reporting capabilities, and positive reviews from clients.
- Carefully select your vendor. The lowest bidder is not always the best option.
- Consider upgrading to a real-time chemical data controller for constant monitoring of the system. This will ensure your tower is always being watched and also will serve as a mechanism to react quickly if an issue is detected.
- Hire a third-party auditor to review the binder and documentation on a monthly or quarterly basis until the maintenance team is comfortable with the process.
- Work with your vendor to set-up an online depository for documentation.
- Create a dashboard for the compliance binder to ensure documentation is never missed.
Dan Wurtzel, President
622 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017