The Sydney Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in March left one dead and nine others hospitalised.

See our timeline below as an example of how HydroChem responds to such outbreaks.

How does HydroChem assist?

Note: HydroChem is not associated or implicated with the Legionnaires’ outbreak, but as an industry leader we are closely involved in liaising with building owners, facility managers, City Council and NSW Health to coordinate responses and confirm compliance.

We often get asked about our response process during these critical times. For a better understanding of how HydroChem reacts when such events occur, we have created a timeline of our team’s response to the current Legionnaires’ outbreak in Sydney.

Day One: 

Wednesday 9 March

On Wednesday afternoon NSW Health announces that four men are in hospital with Legionnaires’ disease.

The outbreak is suspected to be associated with a cooling tower in the Town Hall area in Sydney’s CBD. Given the nature of transmission of Legionella, the specific cooling tower system has not been identified but the general area is declared to be in the region of Clarence, Pitt, Park and King Streets.

HydroChem management brief front-line staff on what is known to date and how to respond to any queries from clients and the public.

Clients start contacting HydroChem after the news hits the airwaves in the early afternoon. From the initial announcement, HydroChem receives 11 queries ranging from specific requests for services to general enquiries about the situation.

As Australia’s leading provider of cooling water treatment services, HydroChem responds immediately by coordinating technicians to the affected area to provide disinfection services.

As an immediate response, HydroChem mobilises 4 technicians on Wednesday afternoon to disinfect 11 cooling towers in the immediate vicinity of the area announced by NSW Health. As an assessment of priority, HydroChem analysed its service schedule for the area and coordinated technicians to cooling tower systems that were scheduled for service in the near future.

Reports on the PM news sparked an additional series of phone and email enquiries that were all managed on the day.

Day Two:

Thursday 10 March

On Thursday morning HydroChem mobilises 8 technicians to the declared area to provide disinfection and sampling services to over 30 cooling tower systems. The technicians work with clients throughout the day responding to specific requests and providing additional services as required.

More than 60 phone calls and emails are received from early in the morning throughout the day. The majority of calls are from HydroChem clients requesting specific details such as:

  • Specific requests for microbiological & disinfection and sampling services
  • Confirmation of compliant Legionnaires’ risk management at their location
  • Copies of service reports and microbiological test results to confirm compliance

Interestingly, requests from clients are not limited to the declared area of the CBD. Given the news exposure several clients from outside the CBD including regional NSW ask for confirmation of risk management at their facility.

Sydney City Council also contacts HydroChem to ask for details of any cooling tower systems that have had issues or Legionella detections. HydroChem is able to confirm that the cooling tower systems we maintain are compliant and there are no concerns associated with the locations we provide services.

Day Three:

Friday 11 March

NSW Health announces that the area of concern is broader than initially advised.

HydroChem mobilises 4 technicians to provide microbiological disinfection and sampling services to an additional 20 cooling tower systems in the broader area.

NSW Health announces two additional cases of Legionnaires’ disease. This brings the total number of cases to eight cases. Six of those cases presented in early March. The remaining two cases were from December 2015 and January 2016.

All people who are affected are males ranging in age from mid-30s to late 80s.

The number of phone calls and requests slow down a little but continue to trickle in.

Given the ongoing situation, and that we were now three days from the initial announcement by NSW Health, the level of concern shifts from primarily front-line roles to senior management. Several property management & building owner groups request information specific to their sites and regards Legionella risk management more generally.

Day Six & Seven:

Monday 14 & Tuesday 15 March

Enquiries drop to just a handful a day. This includes requests to join into high-level conference calls with national facilities management companies who have now escalated the situation internally. HydroChem management joins the conferences as advisors on specific sites and Legionnaires’ disease more generally.

Day Eight: 

Wednesday 16 March

Sadly it is announced by NSW Health that a man has died as a result of the outbreak. It is also announced that 9 people are now confirmed to have contracted Legionnaires’ disease as a result of this outbreak.