Upcoming changes to the Regulation of Cooling Towers and Water Cooling Systems

NSW is moving towards a risk based approach to Legionella control in cooling towers and water cooling systems. The changes will require the owner of each system to conduct a risk assessment and develop a Risk Management Plan with appropriate controls. The changes are due to be implemented over the course of 2018. Please see the NSW Health Legionella Control website for more information.

What are cooling towers?

Cooling towers are heat removal devices used to transfer process waste heat to the atmosphere. They use treated water in the system as a means to do this and are used in buildings for the purposes of ventilation and occupational climate control.

How can cooling towers be a source for contracting Legionnaires Disease?

Cooling towers can be a source of Legionnaires Disease if the water contained within is not regularly monitored and treated, or if the system is not regularly maintained and cleaned.

Infection may occur after inhaling an aerosol (fine airborne particles) which contain Legionella bacteria. When the surface of the water is broken, evaporation of water droplets which are released takes place. The water droplets may contain bacteria which remains suspended in the air and can be inhaled into the lungs.

What is Council’s Role in Legionella Monitoring?

Cooling towers or warm water systems in operation within the Council area must be registered with Council. Council maintains a register of all towers within its Council area.

The system will be inspected annually by a Council Officer to ensure compliance with the Public Health Act 2010 and Public Health Regulation 2012.

Council's role will be evolving under the upcoming changes to the Regulation.

What does a Council inspection involve?

A copy of the requirements which are assessed during a Council inspection can be located below at the “Water Cooling System Inspection Report “ and “Warm Water System Inspection Report”  links below from the NSW Health website. The Council officer will conduct a visual inspection of the cooling tower, and may collect a sample of water from the system.

The occupier of premises with water treatment systems must ensure that up- to- date records are kept on site- which will include reports such as:

  • Monthly chemical engineer service visits.
  • Tower clean reports
  • Annual Certification Statement from competent person.
  • Independent laboratory testing results.
  • Operation manual.
  • Maintenance manual.
  • Documented courses of action such as seasonal shut downs or rectifications to problems identified.

 

What courses of action may the Council take?

If the inspection or sampling shows failure to comply with requirements, Council can issue warning letters, improvement notices or a prohibition order. The action will depend on the severity of the offence. Warning letters are issued for minor non-compliances. Improvement notices are issued when a cooling tower is not maintained in accordance with enforceable requirements which includes providing safe and easy access. Prohibition orders can only be issued when a cooling tower presents a serious risk to public health, or if an improvement notice served on a tower has not been complied with.

Are fees applicable for operating a regulated system?

There is an  inspection fee in accordance with Strathfield Council’s Fees and Charges.

Further information related to the legislation governing regulated systems, Legionnaires Disease and compliance monitoring tools can be downloaded from the NSW Health website below.

Audit Tools

Water Cooling System Inspection

Warm Water System Inspection

Legionnaires Disease

Code of Practice for the Control of Legionnaires' Disease 2nd Edition 2004, NSW

Legionnaires Disease Factsheet

Legionnaires Disease Factsheet

Legionnaires Disease Control for Building Owners and Occupiers