Clarification re cooling towers and Legionnaires’ disease

Thursday April 13 2017

Five cases of Legionnaires' disease are being investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to determine a possible link to cooling towers in Melbourne's Central Business District. In accordance with the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 and the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009, DHHS is the responsible agency for these matters.

DHHS is also responsible for the registration of cooling tower systems; their maintenance and testing standards; risk management plans and audits of these plans; and conducting inspections.

The VBA's role is to ensure individuals carrying out regulated plumbing work, including plumbing work within the class of Mechanical Services Work for cooling towers, are licensed and registered with the VBA. The VBA also requires licensed plumbing practitioners to issue and lodge compliance certificates for plumbing work in relation to the construction, installation, alteration, relocation or replacement of a cooling tower.

The queries raised by Mr Pewtress, as reported in The Age on 13 April 2017, were not in regards to cooling towers, but related to multi-unit hot solar water systems. As the responsible body, the VBA can (and has) intervened to ensure that multi-unit solar hot water systems comply with the requirements for the prevention of exposure to legionella risk (in accordance with DHHS guidelines). The VBA continues to work with industry and DHHS in the design, installation and maintenance of these systems.

Technical Solution Sheet 7.02 is available on the VBA website. It informs plumbing practitioners on the standards and regulations relating to work on cooling towers, and the relevant obligations and responsibilities of contractors, land owners and regulators.

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