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The NSW Government is set to tighten cooling towers regulations after dozens of people contracted the disease earlier this year, with more cases notified between January and April than any year since 2012.

In a bid to contain the outbreaks NSW Health established a working group to review current regulations and identify recommendations to strengthen current laws surrounding the operation and maintenance of cooling towers.

A spokesperson for NSW Health told CCN that the working group is currently finalising its recommendations with an announcement only weeks away.

"Recommendations are being presented and they’re expected in the coming weeks," she said.

Nick Duncan, CEO of water treatment service provider HydroChem, said current regulations in NSW are non-prescriptive compared to other states and believes more needs to be done to improve safety.

Duncan said that under the current regime there is a requirement to notify the local council that a coolig tower exists.

"However, there is no requirement to keep that notification up to date in terms of ownership and management of the system," he said.

"Different councils in NSW have different processes in place in terms of managing their register of cooling tower systems and as you would expect some registers are more up to date than others."

Duncan supports the introduction of a registration scheme with a central body that maintains an 'up to date' list of all cooling tower systems.

"There needs to be risk management approach to minimizing the risk of outbreaks. For example, cooling towers systems that are in the vicinity of high numbers of people like the CBD should be maintained at a higher standard."

Duncan said HydroChem has not been associated with any Legionnaires' outbreaks in its 37-year history. "This is quite an achievement considering HydroChem is responsible for about 25 per cent of all cooling tower systems in Australia," he said.

Once the recommendations have been finalised NSW Health will need to act quickly as the spring season is a dangerous time for Legionella, according to HydroChem's manager for NSW, Les Szabo.

"Outside temperatures are particularly changeable in Australia as spring approaches and hot spells are not uncommon," he said.

"This sudden demand for cooling from dormant systems can result in an increased risk for the proliferation of Legionella bacteria.

"Spring can be a dangerous time with the risk of Legionella even higher in some systems than we see during summer when cooling towers are operational and running on a full load."

Szabo said building owners and facility managers need to work proactively with their mechanical contractors to coordinate circulation programs.

"An upgrade to smart water treatment technology can also help to effectively manage the vagaries in water conditions," he said.

"We have developed an online risk rating tool that analyses data collected from cooling tower systems and rates their performance."

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