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New ASHRAE standards attempt to control Legionnaires’ disease

Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in New York City, San Quentin State Prison in Northern California, and a veterans home in Illinois have been in the news recently. More outbreaks are likely to follow, as are claims against design professionals (especially mechanical engineers) who may have past involvement with these projects.

Last month, the New York City Health Commissioner, recognizing that outbreaks won’t be prevented without proper maintenance and treatment programs, required cooling tower registration as well as adherence to ASHRAE’s newly published Legionella Standard 188 and Cooling Technology Institute Guidelines WTB-148.

The ASHRAE Standard 188—Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems (published June 2015)—provides minimum risk management requirements for the design, construction, commissioning, operation, maintenance, repair, replacement, and expansion of new and existing buildings. The standard requires facilities to implement a water management program that includes a written document with certain components and Legionella (the bacteria that causes the disease) control measures.

The standard applies to any building or site that contains cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot tubs, ornamental fountains, misters, atomizers, air washers, humidifiers, or any devices that release water droplets into the air. Because it’s a national standard, local legislation is not required for its application. The standard will undoubtedly be referenced in future litigation as a baseline for a client’s minimum responsibility.

Engineers may want to use the publication of this new standard as a marketing tool and reach out to past clients. Offering professional services to assist clients with project compliance may deflect future claims as well as generate additional fees.

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