Various types of air conditioners, especially those with cooling towers have been associated with the spread of the potentially fatal Legionnaire’s Disease. Bacteria which cause this disease breed in the warm water of cooling towers and other warm water systems in buildings where droplet aerosols are dispersed and can be breathed in.
The operations of these systems are regulated by law to ensure building owners maintain these systems to prevent this health hazard occurring.
Find out more about:
What is Council’s obligation with water cooling towers?
Council regulates water cooling systems under the Public Health Act 1991
(new window) and the Public Health (Microbial Control) Regulation 2000
(new window). Water cooling systems must also comply with AS /NZS 3666.2: 1995 and AS /NZS 3666.3: 2000, which can be obtained from the Australian Standards
(new window). Council is required to keep a register of all water-cooling and warm-water systems installed on premises in the Council area.
What does Council require from premises with water cooling towers?
Council maintains a register of all “Regulated Systems” in the Shoalhaven area and it is the legal responsibility of the owner of a premises in which such a system is installed to promptly notify Council of any changes to the contact details and other information held on the register.
All water cooling systems are required to be equipped with an operating and maintenance manual. The manuals must include all details of inspections and servicing performed. Manuals, records and annual certification of the sanitising system are also required to be kept on site. Council may inspect the operating and maintenance manuals at any time.
What is legionella?
Legionella is a bacterium, and there are several species of Legionella that can cause pneumonia. The bacteria Legionella Pneumophila
is known to exist in water cooling towers.
How can legionella be controlled?
Legionella bacteria multiply rapidly at their preferred temperatures of 20°C – 45°C, which means that cooling towers and air conditioners are favourable for the growth of these pathogens. The growth of Legionella bacteria may be prevented by sufficient cleaning, disinfection and maintenance of such systems.
What should I do if I own premises with a water cooling tower on the roof?
The owners of premises are required to notify Council:
- within one month of the purchase of premises which has one of these systems
- within one month of the installation of one of these systems
The owner or occupier of the premises must also ensure:
- that regular maintenance is carried out and that records of such maintenance are kept on the premises
- certification is provided stating that the cooling tower complies with the disinfection requirements of the Australian Standards (new window)
How do I know if I have a water cooling tower on my premises?
Ask the landlord or company that services the air conditioning system. Do not attempt to access the roof to identify your cooling system unless you are equipped to do so, as this may be dangerous. Identifying a system is not easy unless you are a specialist in this field.
Where can I get further information?
Regulations and standards that apply can be found at NSW Department of Health
(new window)or Standards Australia
(new window). General information regarding Legionella can be found at NSW Department of Health
(new window) or by contacting Council’s Environmental Health Officers on (02) 4429 3111.