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Westchester Business Offers Tips For Combating Legionnaires' Disease

Bud Hammer said hiring a credentialed water treatment company is key to combating Legionnaires' disease.
Bud Hammer said hiring a credentialed water treatment company is key to combating Legionnaires' disease. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lara Sullivan

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- As Westchester County has undertaken initiatives to prevent the spread of Legionniares' Disease, a Bedford-based business says buildings need to think twice about their cooling towers.

This summer, The Bronx was hit by an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease, killing 12 people and making more than 100 people sick.

In Yonkers, Riverside High School tested positive for legionella bacteria and its cooling tower was cleaned and disinfected.

Legionnaires' disease was discovered after men at an American Legion convention in 1976 in Philadelphia became sick with the disease when the cooling tower was infested with legionella bacteria.

"It affects people's respiratory systems," Bud Hammer, president of Bedford-based Atlantic Westchester, a commercial and industrial HVAC business, said. "It can typically turn into pneumonia. It can be stopped by disinfecting a cooling tower with bleach. The disinfection kills the bacteria.

People contract the legionnaire's disease by breathing in the bacteria. Hammer said building owners need to have a professional water treatment company come and clean their cooling owners.

"There is a lack of knowledge or lack of willingness to spend to properly maintain buildings," Hammer said. "There have been a lot of shortcuts from people being cheap or ignorant.

A water treatment company should be licensed and have credentials, Hammer said.

Caren Halbfinger, the director of public affairs for the Westchester County Department of Health said the health department has inspected all cooling towers on county property to assure the equipment is working properly and the bacteria levels are within normal readings.

"In early August, the health department reached out to building owners and institutions throughout Westchester, to urge them to clean and disinfect their cooling towers," Halbfinger said.

New York State has issued new regulations about cooling towers and guidance on enforcement of these regulations is expected soon. All cooling towers must register with the state by Sept. 30.

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