Register your building cooling tower

Legionnaires disease

Cooling towers are inspected because of the risk of the potentially fatal Legionnaires Disease which can be contracted from poorly maintained cooling towers. Symptoms of the disease include headache, fever, cough, chest pain, diarrhoea, breathlessness and disorientation.

Legionnaires Disease is caused by breathing in Legionella bacteria. This bacteria is present in the environment, but can grow rapidly in cooling towers of air conditioning units, and in warm water systems.

Legionella growth can be controlled by proper water treatment (process of disinfection) procedures and regular cleaning. Building occupiers are responsible to ensure all water and evaporative cooling, air handling, (de)humidifying, and hot and warm-water systems are properly maintained.

A competent person who has expertise in the field, such as a tertiary qualified chemist, chemical engineer or microbiologist, must certify each system annually.

Identifying a system is not easy unless you are a specialist in this field. If you are not sure if your building contains a cooling tower, ask the landlord or company that services the air 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.

Only competent contractors should be engaged to install, operate and maintain regulated systems. The Building Services Corporation licenses contractors who undertake this work.

Information and factsheets on Legionella control for building owners, occupiers and contractors are available at the NSW Health website.