Key messages

  • Cooling tower systems  are governed by the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 and the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019.
  • This page incorporates the changes as a result of the commencement of the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 which replaced the 2009 Regulations.

Your legal responsibilities

The following information is a brief explanation of the requirements under the Act and Regulations. It is strongly recommended that any one developing a RMP read all parts of the legislation before completing a plan. The Act requires the following elements:

The owner of the land on which there is a cooling tower system to ensure that each cooling tower system on that land is registered with the department at all times that the cooling tower system is in operation.

It is a requirement that the department is notified within 30 days of:

  • a change in the ownership of the land
  • a change in their mailing address or their contact details including mobile phone numbers and email addresses
  • a change in the numbers of cooling towers in a cooling tower system
  • the removal or decommissioning of the cooling tower system
  • the relocation of the cooling tower system on land.

The owner of the land on which there is a cooling tower system to take all reasonable steps to ensure that a risk management plan is developed for the cooling tower system and continues to exist at all times the system is in operation. The plan must:

Set out the steps to be taken to ensure compliance with the maintenance, service and testing requirements described in the Regulations. For example, the plan will need to describe how you will respond to an adverse microbiological test result (such as the detection of Legionella or a high HCC result).

AND

Address five critical risks:

  • stagnant water, including the lack of water recirculation in a cooling tower system and the presence of dead-end pipework and other fittings in the cooling tower system
  • nutrient growth, including:
    • the presence of biofilm, algae and protozoa in a cooling tower system;
    • water temperature within a range that will support rapid growth of microorganisms in a cooling tower system
    • the exposure of the water of a cooling tower system to direct sunlight
  • poor water quality, including the presence of solids, Legionella and high levels of microorganisms in a cooling tower system
  • deficiencies in a cooling tower system, including deficiencies in the physical design, condition and maintenance of the system
  • the location of, and access to, a cooling tower or cooling tower system, including the potential for environmental contamination of the system and the potential for exposure of people to the aerosols of the system

The RMP must also address any matters raised in a report from any person engaged by the owner of the land or the owner of the cooling tower system that refers to control measures being inadequate or requiring improvement.

The owner of the land on which there is a cooling tower system to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the risk management plan is audited annually.

Owners, occupiers and managers of property should note that the Act provides the Department’s authorised officers with extensive powers of entry to sites with cooling tower systems.

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

  • 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 greater than one month and at intervals not exceeding 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 serviced at least once each month
  • a water sample is taken from the cooling tower system at least once each month and sent to a laboratory for a HCC count.
  • a water sample is taken from the cooling tower system at least once every three months and sent to a laboratory for a Legionella test.

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

Following the commencement of the new regulations in 2019:

It is now an offence to tamper with a sample of water taken from the cooling tower.

It is now an offence to falsify a laboratory report for HCC or Legionella.

It is now a requirement to notify the department if Legionella is detected at a level above 1,000 cfu/ml in any sample taken from a cooling tower.   

Notification can be made by emailing the department at legionella@dhhs.vic.gov.au