Verizon, Cooling Towers, and Legionnaires’ Disease

When you think of potential disease carriers, Verizon is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But this week New York Attorney General Letitia James announced results of a three-year investigation of cooling towers on buildings across the state. It didn’t look good for Verizon.

“Verizon didn’t maintain their cooling towers on buildings across New York City, causing the towers to spread Legionnaires’ disease, a dangerous and deadly form of pneumonia.” — James said on twitter.

The results announcement, which looked at maintenance records for Verizon cooling towers dating back to 2017, comes amid two new outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in the US, including an outbreak in the Bronx that has so far killed two people and infected at least 24 others. The New York City Department of Health linked these cases to four special cooling towers in the Bronx Area Highbridgewhere bacteria were found growing. The Ministry of Health did not say who was responsible for monitoring the towers. The Covid-19 pandemic may have contributed to such outbreaks, as unexpected building closures may have done so. easier on bacteria grow in plumbing and plumbing systems.

Cooling towers like the ones Verizon uses often placed on rooftops, and are commonly used to cool machines such as air conditioning systems and telecommunications equipment. There are many types of such infrastructure that private companies are installing in and around densely populated areas. Companies operating such equipment must follow best practices to ensure that their equipment does not pose a safety risk. But when this infrastructure is not properly maintained — and regulators fail to detect violations — it can become dangerous and even lead to public health problems.

Legionnaires’ disease, caused by the bacteria Legionella, is just one of them. The disease got its name after an outbreak occurred in convention of the american legionveterans organization, in 1976. Although it is often found in natural water sourcessuch as ponds, streams, and lakes, these bacteria become problematic when they enter human-built water systems such as hot tubs, sinks, and plumbing.

Once bacteria begin to grow inside these devices, they can spread through tiny water droplets that, if inhaled, can infect a person’s lungs and cause pneumonia. Legionnaires’ disease can usually be treated with antibiotics, and the symptoms of the disease are usually difficult to distinguish from other infections. However, this disease can be dangerous for people with certain risk factors or conditions, including people over 50 or people with cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention He speaks that about one in ten people who get Legionnaires’ disease die from complications. Disease not passed from person to person.

This is where Verizon cooling towers come in: a cooling tower can spray water into the air, which it uses to cool the equipment. If this water contains Legionella bacteria, these bacteria can also be released into the air, where they can infect people nearby. These cooling towers are of particular concern as they can operate at temperatures ideal for the growth of this bacteriumespecially during summer. These cooling towers are also everywhere as they are used to cool everything from air-cooled systems to equipment used for industrial processes and power generation.

“Electronic equipment generates a lot of heat, and in order for it to work, they need to keep it at a low temperature,” Brian Labus, infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Nevada School of Public Health at Las Vegas. “Every time you have computer systems, like in these places, a ton of heat is generated, and they [have] to get rid of the heat – otherwise they will melt all their equipment.

Buildings and companies that operate these cooling towers are expected to take a number of steps to stop bacterial growth, including constantly checking their equipment for potential infections. New York City, for example, passed state and local laws to regulate these towers more aggressively after 138 people were diagnosed – and 16 people died from – Legionnaires’ disease during the 2015 outbreak in the Bronx.

After these laws were passed, the State Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation into cooling tower owners to make sure they were complying with New York City’s requirements.

According to the Attorney General’s investigation, Verizon, which hires other companies to operate its cooling towers, did not conduct regular inspections of its cooling towers and could not effectively disinfect those cooling towers after detecting bacteria. Overall, the company recorded at least 225 violations at approximately 45 different locations throughout New York. Now Verizon must pay a $118,000 fine and adopt several new procedures to ensure the safe maintenance of these towers. The company told Recode that it did not admit to any wrongdoing.

“Legionnaires’ disease remains deadly in parts of our state, especially in low-income and communities of color,” James said in a statement Thursday. “It’s important that companies like Verizon take the necessary actions to avoid the spread of this preventable and deadly disease.”

Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease remain a problem throughout the United States. In addition to the recent cluster of cases in the Bronx, New Jersey health officials connected a cluster of Legionnaires’ cases last month at the Hampton Inn, and in 2019 the Georgia Department of Health linked an outbreak that probably caused nearly 80 cases sickness on the hotel’s cooling tower. Legionella bacteria have also repeatedly appeared in unexpected places, such as beverage factoryhot water tanks used in the Ford factorya GlaxoSmithKline playground and cooling tower used by Disneyland.

But inevitably, the results of the New York investigation serve as a warning to many companies building or operating infrastructure in cities and towns across the country, especially those that rely on water to cool it.

“Being a tech company, you probably wouldn’t think about infecting someone with something. [that’s] manage your equipment,” Labus said. “It really shows the importance of paying attention to your systems and ensuring that you have the right levels of preventive maintenance and that you don’t get to the point where you can infect others.”

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