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High Risk Manufactured Water Systems

Sources of outbreaks of Legionnaire's disease (Legionellosis) worldwide have been traced to cooling towers and warm water systems (high risk manufactured water systems) that have been incorrectly commissioned or poorly maintained.

Cooling towers act as a component of some air-conditioning systems or as cooling devices for some plant processes and equipment. The Legionella bacteria can multiply and flourish in this artificial habitat and are then widely dispersed by aerosol, possibly causing infection.

Illnesses attributed to Legionella (covered by the general term 'legionellosis") may take two forms:

  • Pontiac Fever - a non life-threatening flu-like illness lasting several days
  • Legionnaire's Disease - a severe, often fatal form of pneumonia.

Infections due to L. longbeachae in Australia and New Zealand have been associated with gardening activities, many involving the use of potting mixes or composts.

Public health measures to control Legionellosis include:

  • educating and enforcing the safe operation of cooling towers and warm water systems
  • educating and enforcing the safe operation of spa pools.

A key role of Council is the annual licensing and auditing of all cooling towers and warm water systems located within Alexandrina Council under the Guidelines for the Control of Legionella in Manufactured Water Systems in South Australia. These audits are undertaken by Councils Environmental Health Officers (EHO's). Through the assessment process, the Environmental Health Section aims to ensure that cooling tower operators are aware of and operate in accordance with the relevant legislation.