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De Blasio Signs Cooling Tower Regulations Into Law In Wake Of Legionnaires' Outbreak

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio signed new legislation into law Tuesday aimed at regulating cooling towers in response to the Legionnaires' outbreak in the Bronx.

The new law requires landlords to register, inspect and regularly clean cooling towers. Building owners would also need to get an annual certification. Those who do not comply would face fines up to $25,000, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

"Today marks New York City becoming the first major city in the United States to regulate cooling towers so that we can protect against Legionnaires' disease," de Blasio said.

De Blasio Signs Cooling Tower Regulations Into Law In Wake Of Legionnaires' Outbreak

"We know that preventative medicine is the best medicine," the mayor said. "This legislation is all about finding and eliminating the Legionella bacteria before it turns into another outbreak."

Health officials believe the outbreak, which has killed 12 people, stems from Legionella bacteria festering in building cooling towers and being sprayed out in a mist, which is then inhaled into the lungs.

It is not contagious and is easily diagnosed and treated with antibiotics, but poses the most risk to people who have underlying medical conditions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced similar measures Monday, requiring the testing and inspection of building cooling towers statewide to combat the disease.

"This summer's outbreak of Legionnaires' disease caused concern in communities across the state, and today we are moving forward to help prevent future outbreaks and keep our neighborhoods safe,'' he said in a statement. "I want to reassure all New Yorkers: We are addressing the problem at its source and protecting the public health, statewide.''

Under the emergency health regulations, all owners of buildings with cooling towers will be required to register the structures with the state Health Department within 30 days. The cooling towers must be regularly tested for Legionella bacteria, and any contaminated towers must be disinfected immediately.

The regulations also spell out inspection requirements and penalties for violations of the testing rules.

The statement also announced the creation of a tip line, 888-769-7243, for questions about the new regulations.

Cuomo's office said Monday that the new statewide regulations were drafted in consultation with City Hall and the City Council.

Last fall, experts from the city Department of Health pointed out Legionella cases increased 230 percent from 2002 to 2011 and wrote "greater effort may be warranted on the upkeep of cooling towers."

"I think we were slow to react," said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. "Having said that, it's now time to react and be proactive. I think the Health Department is doing that."

No new cases of the disease have been reported since Aug. 3.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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