Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at the New York State Labors'...

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at the New York State Labors' meeting on Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Bolton Landing, N.Y. Credit: AP

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday he will pursue statewide regulations for cooling towers such as those believed to be at the center of a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the South Bronx.

Because New York City doesn't have a registry of the structures, state inspectors have been "literally going building to building to find out where the cooling towers are," he said.

The disease -- a form of pneumonia that is not contagious -- has killed at least 10 people, sickening at least 108 people in the South Bronx, New York City officials said. There have been no new cases diagnosed since Aug. 3, officials said.

Ten total cooling towers in the area have tested positive for Legionella bacteria, Mayor Bill de Blasio said over the weekend.

Cuomo's proposal Sunday mirrored one made by political rival de Blasio last week. The mayor said he and the City Council will introduce legislation Monday mandating that building owners citywide register their cooling towers and adhere to guidelines on regular inspections or face sanctions.

De Blasio, Cuomo and their aides have butted heads in public-health responses such as last year's Ebola scare, as well as other issues such as housing.

In recent days, de Blasio has sought to reassure New Yorkers that the rate of Legionnaires' infections is "tapering off," while Cuomo likened the flare-up to something out of a "bad science fiction movie."

Before the Dominican Day parade Sunday in Manhattan, Cuomo said of Bronx residents, "I'm going to make sure their government is there for them."

A statewide registry would offer consistency across New York and include a standard on when to clean cooling towers and which chemicals to use, he told reporters.

"I want to make sure we have a statewide system, statewide protocols," the governor said.

Cooling towers are typically associated with newer, nonresidential buildings and central air conditioning. Officials said they believe that contaminated vapor emitted by the structures is the cause of the cluster of Legionnaires' infections in the South Bronx. Those killed by the disease have been older adults with pre-existing medical conditions and weakened immune systems. The majority of people who contracted Legionnaires' as part of the cluster have been treated and released from the hospital.

De Blasio spokeswoman Karen Hinton said Sunday the city will work "closely" with Albany to implement state standards, but will continue pursuing city measures to prevent future outbreaks.

"Once passed, New York City will lead the way, becoming the first city to establish standards," Hinton said in a statement. City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett issued an order Thursday calling for building owners to have their cooling towers inspected and disinfected within two weeks -- if they haven't done so in the past month -- and said those who don't comply will face a misdemeanor charge.

The state Health Department has offered free testing of the city's samples.

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