Since December, The Bronx has experienced 12 diagnosed cases of Legionnaires' disease, an illness that has symptoms including fever, diarrhea, muscle aches and chills. Out of these 12 cases, eight were found among residents of Co-op City.
The Health Department is still trying to determine whether the Co-op City cooling tower has caused these recent cases of the disease, but it has already directed RiverBay Corporation, which manages the structure, to decontaminate it.
RiverBay started to cleanse the cooling tower with chlorine on Jan. 10, and the company has shut it down for physical cleaning as well. It will continually test for bacteria throughout this process and report what it finds to the Health Department.
After the initial disinfecting process, the Health Department and RiverBay will work together to prevent the Legionnaires' disease bacteria from returning.
The water in the cooling tower is separate from the water that residents use to drink, bathe and cook with, and it is still safe to use water in Co-op City for these activities, according to the Health Department. There also should not be any disruptions to tenants' heat or hot water during the disinfecting process.
Several cases of Legionnaires' disease begin in plumbing systems like cooling towers, hot tubs and humidifiers, where conditions are favorable for the bacteria to grow, the Health Department said.
The Health Department will hold a meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at 177 Dreiser Loop to discuss questions and concerns that Co-op City residents have about the disease.
“The Health Department is concerned about this sudden increase in Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement. “We are conducting a thorough investigation and working closely with RiverBay Corporation to minimize the public risk and to prevent future cases. I urge anyone with symptoms to seek medical attention right away.”