Cooling Towers and Legionnaires Disease

Cooling Towers

If your premises has or operates a Cooling Tower or Evaporative Condenser, it must be registered with the Local Authority. The principle purpose for this notification process is to identify where potential sources of legionnaires disease are located and allow for easier identification, monitoring and inspection by the enforcing authorities. The Council should also be notified if the unit is decommissioned and/or disinfected, or where there is a change in owner (within one month of this occurring).

Legionnaires Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia. The agent that causes Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterium called Legionella Pneumophilia. Legionnaires'; disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. However, some people are at higher risk, including:

  • people over 45 years of age
  • smokers and heavy drinkers
  • people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease
  • anyone with an impaired immune system

Certain conditions increase the risk from growth and spread of legionella, such as :

  • a suitable temperature for growth, 20 oC to 45 oC
  • a source of nutrients for the organism to grow, such as sludge, scale, rust, algae and other organic matter
  • a way of creating and spreading breathable droplets, such as the aerosol created by a cooling tower or spa pool

Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where the water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth, for example cooling towers, evaporative condensers, spa pools, and hot water systems used in all sorts of premises (work and domestic).

Most community outbreaks in the UK have been linked to installations such as cooling towers, which can spread droplets of water over a wide area. These are found as part of air-conditioning and industrial cooling systems.

While most cases of legionnaires' disease are the result of infections caught in the UK, a number of cases occur abroad. Useful advice on travel can be found from the European Working Group for Legionella Infections

To prevent exposure to the legionella bacteria, employers must comply with legislation that requires them to manage, maintain and treat water systems in their premises properly. This will include, but is not to be limited to, appropriate water treatment and cleaning regimes.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced an Approved Code of Practice and Guidance on controlling legionella bacteria in water systems to assist employers in assessing the risk of employees and others in the workplace contracting Legionnaires' disease. Copies of the guidance can be obtained from HSE books.

The Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992 requires the existence of cooling towers to be notified to the local authority, which maintains a register of these installations.

All notifications are held on a public register and will remain there until we are notified of any changes. The register can be viewed by clicking on the related download.

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