THE BRONX — The New York State Health Department will offer free legionella bacteria testing for building owners of properties with cooling towers or evaporative condenser units that can be sources of the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday.
Testing will be done through the state's Wadsworth Center Laboratory free of charge until October, when the warm summer temperatures that may help lead to the growth of legionella bacteria have gone down.
The state has also opened up free phone lines to help make it easier to collect samples and conduct tests. The numbers — 888-769-7243 and 518-485-1159 — began working on Thursday at 4 p.m. and will continue to operate from Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker came to The Bronx on Thursday to tour Concourse Plaza, one of the sites that had been infected, and he will be working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to put together a thorough briefing on the outbreak for next week.
“These services will help safeguard the public and raise awareness about the importance of properly maintaining these systems,” Zucker said in a statement.
The Wadsworth Center's Bacteriology Laboratory has already tested more than 100 samples from Bronx cooling towers and is also working to figure out whether each tower was infected with the same strain of legionella.
The recent outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the South Bronx is the worst in city history and has now killed 10 people while sickening 101 others.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday that all city cooling towers must be inspected and disinfected within the next 14 days or face a misdemeanor charge. The city also plans to introduce legislation next week that would require all cooling towers to be regularly inspected and cleaned.