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.

The system will be inspected annually by a Council Officer to ensure compliance with the Public Health Act 2010 and Public Health (Microbial Control) Regulation 2000.

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 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?

The following results from laboratory testing as a result of a Council Officer inspection correspond to the course of action which may be taken to ensure that the regulated system is brought into compliance;

  • Less than 10 cfu/ml: No action required- effective maintenance practices are in place.
  • Up to 100 cfu/ml: Warning Letter may be issued and follow- up testing required. System will need to be investigated by your certified competent person.
  • 100 to 1000 cfu/ml: A Notice may need to be issued requiring immediate assessment of the system by a certified competent person. Maintenance procedures and disinfection process will need to be re- evaluated.
  • More than 1000 cfu/ml: A Shut Down Notice will be issued requiring that the system is shut down and decontaminated, prior to re- operating the system.

Are fees applicable for operating a regulated system?

There is an initial registration fee and 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 Control for Building Owners and Occupiers