Cooling Tower Safety

Our January Managers Seminar focused on Cooling Tower Maintenance and Regulations, reminding all our property managers what City Regulations govern this important area of safety. After a deadly outbreak of “Legionnaire’s Disease” in the Bronx a few years ago, NYC implemented strict requirements for the annual inspection, cleaning and reporting for all the cooling towers in the City.

Cooling towers, which can be seen atop most buildings in the City, function as part of the heating, ventilation and/or air conditioning (HVAC) system, acting to “cool” the system. Because these towers hold water, they can potentially create an environment where bacteria can grow. While situations like the Legionella outbreaks are rare, they can be extremely dangerous, and thus must be prevented through vigilance and regular preventive treatment.

To meet these requirements, all properties must hire a qualified company to clean and inspect their cooling towers each year, and must file a Maintenance Program and Plan (MPP) annually with the City’s Department of Buildings. Failure to do so may result in considerable fines.

At DEPM, we keep our managers up to date continuously to ensure that all the properties we manage are maintained safely and meet all NYC housing requirements. Not only does this address the health of all residents, but it helps to avoid any fines and penalties for failure to comply with safety regulations.

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David and Mark Drozdov of Creative Environment Solutions spoke to DEPM managers about ensuring the safety of cooling towers at their properties.

 

Vigilance is Needed to Avoid Fines and Violations

By Thomas Usztoke, Vice President of ManagementTomUsztoke

Whether you believe that New York City’s issuance of building violations is aimed at revenue generation or improving the quality of life, it’s a fact that City inspectors are out in unprecedented numbers with their Rule Books and Violations Notepads at the ready. And the fines continue to increase, keeping building staff, managing agents, and a host of contractors, consultants, architects and engineers busy mitigating your property’s exposure. DEPM’s Compliance Department works continuously with our agents and managers to keep them abreast of the core issues involving violations, mitigation and compliance. Below are key areas where fines can pile up unless systems are in place to ensure that City regulations are being followed:

  • Curbside Debris: Sanitation inspectors routinely issue curbside debris violations. Building staff must keep a keen eye out for the tossed wrapper, discarded cigarette or coffee cup to avoid fines from $50 to $500, depending on occurrences accumulated.
  • Trash Pick-up Times: Sanitation inspectors will issue fines of up to $500 for trash or recycling being put out too early the night before a trash pick-up. Resident Managers and Superintendents should be wary that too early curbside placement can be costly.
  • Recycling: Sanitation inspectors are traveling in DOS-marked ‘patrol cars’ ahead of the regular sanitation trucks randomly opening regular trash bags, rummaging through the garbage in search of recycled plastic and paper products. All it takes is one soda can or magazine in the regular trash to result in an instant ticket. Residents should be encouraged to be diligent in their recycling efforts, as these fines are passed in the form of rising common charges.
  • Snow/Ice Removal: Vigilant snow and ice removal is crucial to avoid dangerous conditions and potential liability claims, as well as fines. Also be mindful of sidewalk cracks, lifts and openings, which can also result in a fine from the Department of Transportation or a liability suit.
  • Standpipe Sprinklers: Annual inspections and daily record-keeping are required. This can be done by your resident manager/superintendent but they must have a special license issued by the FDNY. While the system may pass inspection (it is wise to pre-test the systems with the building plumber), if the daily logs are not in the proper book, or are incomplete, fines can climb into the thousands of dollars. The FDNY licensing tests have become so arduous that some supers have had to study and take the test multiple times before passing. Failure to have a licensed staff member responsible is also a costly violation.
  • Boiler System Inspections: A State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspection and a City inspection are both required for boilers. The City inspection is usually handled by the building’s boiler insurance carrier, or by the boiler company.
  • Elevator Inspections: The elevator code division of New York was recently overhauled to bring code up to international standards, as well as abandoning the “Grandfather clause” for old elevators. Elevator companies have increased their charges for these new inspections, and third party inspectors paid by the building are now involved as well. Anything not in compliance with code must be addressed within 90 days. Both compliance costs and fines have skyrocketed, so attention must be paid to these regulations.
  • Rooftop Tanks: Every water tank in New York must be cleaned and inspected annually. Water must be sent out to a lab and the certificate of inspection and the lab certificate of water quality must be kept on premises for five years, posted in a public location and available for any City inspector to review. Fines can be thousands of dollars.
  • Buildings, Health and Fire Department Inspections: Improper basement storage, blocked hallways, improper lighting or lack of emergency lighting, obstacles in stairwells, throw rugs in fire stairs, lack of proper inspection certificates and proof of compliance are all violations that can result in fines. Even a poor attitude by a super can lead to a lengthy list of items to correct and fines to pay.
  • Façade Inspection: Local Law 11/98 (aka Façade Inspection Safety Program, or FISP) requires façade inspection every five years. A new retroactive amendment to this law also requires inspection of railings, terraces, balconies, and fire escapes. New regulations requiring site safety monitors, along with permit fees and rising engineering fees have doubled or even tripled the cost of exterior projects. It’s imperative to work with reputable companies with solid references.