Department of Health

Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 - Cooling tower system

The Regulations describe the minimum requirements for maintaining a cooling tower system.

Key messages

  • The Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 support the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2005 
  • The Regulations describe the minimum requirements for maintaining a cooling tower system 
  • Testing for total bacterial counts is required monthly
  • Legionella must be tested at least once every three months 
  • In the event of adverse results certain immediate steps must be taken to bring the cooling tower system under control. 

Overview 

The Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 (Regulations) describe the minimum requirements for maintaining a cooling tower system.  

A copy of the Regulations can be downloaded from the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website.

It is an offence under the Regulations to not comply with these requirements.

Responsibilities of owners or managers of cooling tower systems

The regulations require the person who owns, manages or controls a cooling tower system to ensure that:  

  • the system is maintained and tested unless it is shut down or is otherwise not in use. 
  • the water in the system is continuously treated with;
    • one or more biocides to effectively control the growth of microorganisms including Legionella
    • chemical or other agents to minimise scale formation, corrosion and fouling
    • a biodispersant
  • immediately prior to a cooling tower system being put into operation for the first time, or following any shut down period of more than one month and at intervals not exceeding six (6) months, a responsible person must ensure that:
    • a chlorine-compatible bio-dispersant is added to the recirculating water; and 
    • the recirculating water is disinfected; and 
    • the interior of each cooling tower in the cooling tower system is cleaned; and
    • the recirculating water is re-disinfected.
  • the system is inspected and serviced at least once a month to ensure it is operating without defects
  • a water sample is taken from the cooling tower system at least once each month and sent to a NATA approved laboratory to test for heterotrophic colony count (HCC)   
  • a water sample is taken from the cooling tower system at least once every three months and sent to a NATA approved laboratory to test for Legionella.
  • maintenance and testing records are kept for 12 months and can be produced to an authorised officer from the department on requested. 

Laboratory results – notification to department 

The regulations require that all cases of legionellosis are notified to the Department of Health (the department). Notification can be made by emailing the department’s  Legionella Team. 

It is a requirement that the responsible person must notify the department within 24 hours when Legionella is detected:

  • in three consecutive samples from the cooling tower
  • at a level above 1,000 cfu/ml in any sample taken from a cooling tower. 

Under the regulations, it is an offence to:

  • tamper with a sample of water taken from the cooling tower, and
  • falsify a laboratory report for HCC or Legionella

The regulations require the person who owns, manages or controls a cooling tower system to take certain actions following a high heterotrophic colony count (HCC) result or the detection of Legionella.

Responsibilities of owners or managers of water delivery systems

Section 82 of the Regulations requires that the responsible person must take all reasonable steps to manage the risks of Legionella in water delivery systems in certain premises.   
The ‘certain premises’ that the regulations apply to are: 

  1. where residential aged care services are provided; and
  2. where health services are provided (but does not include health services provided at a day procedure centre); 
  3. that are prisons;
  4. where impatient forensic mental health services are provided by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health; and 
  5. where commercial vehicle washes are operated.

The ‘reasonable person’ is any person who owns, manages, or controls the water delivery system. 

Reviewed 18 July 2022

Health.vic

Contact details

Our phone service is available Monday to Friday, from 9.00am to 1.00pm. Postal address: GPO Box 4057, Melbourne Vic 3001

Legionella team

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