January 13, 2015

Press Release # 004-15
Tuesday, January 13, 2015

MEDIA CONTACT: (347) 396-4177
Jean Weinberg/Megan Montalvo: PressOffice@health.nyc.gov

Health Department Preliminary Test Results Indicate Legionella Bacteria in Co-Op City Cooling Towers

Eight of the 12 recent cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx have been diagnosed among Co-Op City residents

Health Department instructs River Bay Corporation, which manages Co-Op City’s cooling towers, to take immediate steps to minimize Legionella risk

The Health Department announced today the results of preliminary tests that show that the cooling towers at Co-Op City are contaminated with the Legionella bacteria. Since December 2014, 12 cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been diagnosed among Bronx residents. Eight of the 12 recent cases have been diagnosed among Co-Op City residents.

The Health Department is continuing its investigation to determine if the cooling towers are the source of these recent cases. Although no determination has been made that the cooling towers are the cause of any reported case of Legionnaires Disease, the Health Department instructed River Bay to take immediate steps to decontaminate the cooling tower in order to minimize the risk. The infected water is used to cool Co-Op City’s heating and electrical systems. The water in the cooling tower is self-contained and is separate from the water used by Co-Op City residents for drinking, cooking and bathing. The water at Co-Op City is safe to drink, bathe and cook with.

River Bay Corporation, which operates the cooling towers, has taken immediate steps to decontaminate the cooling towers. With the guidance of the Health Department, River Bay began disinfecting the cooling towers with chlorine on Jan. 10. River Bay has also shut down the cooling tower at Co-Op City to do physical cleaning, followed by more chlorination to control the growth of Legionella bacteria. Throughout the disinfection process, River Bay will continually test for Legionella and report the results back to the Health Department. Following this initial phase, the Health Department and River Bay will continue to work together to modify maintenance procedures to prevent the regrowth of Legionella. There is not expected to be any disruption to tenants’ heat or hot water service during this process.

“The Health Department is concerned about this sudden increase in Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “We are conducting a thorough investigation and working closely with River Bay Corporation to minimize the public risk and to prevent future cases. I urge anyone with symptoms to seek medical attention right away.”

Caused by the bacteria Legionella, symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease can include fever, chills, and cough. Other symptoms include muscle aches, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and, occasionally, diarrhea. Chest X-rays usually show pneumonia. Symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after significant exposure to Legionella bacteria. Legionnaire’s disease cannot be spread from person to person. Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth. Examples of such systems are whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, cooling towers and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.

To answer questions and address any concerns that Co-Op City residents may have, Health Department representatives will attend a meeting at Co-Op City this evening. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at 177 Dreiser Loop in Co-Op City.

For more information about Legionnaires’ disease, please visit the Health Department website.