Back in June 2013, the human cost associated with legionella was on full display when 60-year-old cancer patient John Pearson died after contracting the disease at the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane.
The disease is an infection of the lungs caused by legionella bacteria which are found most commonly in water and soil and can be present in water cooling systems in cooling towers as well as water in other settings such as whirlpool spas, plumbing and shower heads.
Unfortunately, that outbreak was not the only time the disease has raised its head. In Brisbane, for example, a patient tested positive in the Mater Private Hospital in January 2016. In Sydney, 15 people contracted the pneumonia-like condition after visiting the CBD during two separate outbreaks in March and May. One man in his 80s died from the infection.
In response, authorities in New South Wales are reviewing regulation in this area. A discussion paper published in December proposed that building occupiers be required to maintain risk management plans in respect of cooling towers, conduct annual audits of water cooling systems and send evidence of compliance with risk management plans in to local government. The paper also recommended building occupiers notify the local council about legionella bacteria readings of 1000 cfu/mL or above or readings of HPC levels of 5,000,000 cfu/mL or above. The paper proposes that testing of water cooling systems for legionella and heterotrophic plate count (HPC) would be required monthly.