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Why does NYC need water tanks?

The New York City water distribution system contains enough pressure to enable water to rise as high six stories. In order to feed the volume of water consumed by residents, tanks are built on intermediate levels and on the roof. Water from the municipal system comes into a building’s basement, is pumped to the top the building into tanks and falls by gravity down through the pipes for consumption. A larger building may also have a second tank containing water to be used for preliminary fire control until a.ctual fire-fighting equipment arrives on the scene.

Wood tanks range in capacity from 3,500 to 40,000 gallons. They are essentially nothing more than giant barrels made in the time honored way—by hand. There is, quite simply, no way to bring a wood tank onto the roof of a building, so they are built onsite. Individual lengths of wood, called staves are stood up in a hoop bottom and slotted together. Steel hoops are slipped over the outside at several levels and tightened. The wood naturally expands to form a very tight container. Unlike steel tanks, wood tanks do not require a cement lining. Wood tanks have an average life span of over 20 years when properly serviced. NYC health code mandates that all hot and cold domestic water tanks be cleaned and disinfected annually.

While many tanks on NYC roof tops are relatively low tech—made by hand and requiring annual maintenance, there are some water purification systems that are state of the art. The Bon Aqua system evolved out of the aerospace industry. It uses a collar with magnetic amplification that is fitted onto the outside of the pipes that carry water inside the building. Water running through pipes has a negative charge. Algae flourishes in negatively charged water, but not in positively charged water. As the water passes through the intensified magnetic field of the Bon Aqua collar, it takes on positive charge. The system allows one of the hydrogen molecules to attack and remove scale that has built up inside the pipe. It almost completely eliminates the use of chemicals.

Legionnaires Disease—
in case you have any questions about how important maintenance is

The first recognized outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease occurred on July 27, 1976 at the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where members of the American Legion gathered for the Bicentennial. Within two days of the event’s start, veterans began falling ill. 221 people were given medical treatment and 34 deaths occurred. In January 1977, the Legionellosis bacterium was finally identified, isolated and found to be breeding in the cooling tower of the hotel’s air conditioning system, which spread it through the entire building. This finding prompted new regulations worldwide for climate control systems.

An estimated 8,000 to 18,000 people get legionellosis in the United States each year. When outbreaks do occur, they are usually in the summer and early autumn, though cases may occur at any time of year. Legionellosis infection normally occurs after inhaling fine particles in air containing Legionella bacteria. Potential sources of such contaminated water include cooling towers used in cooling water systems as well as in large central air conditioning systems, evaporative coolers, hot water systems, showers, whirlpool spas, architectural fountains, room-air humidifiers, ice making machines, misting equipment, and similar disseminators that draw upon a public water supply.

This is where American comes in. Only through the meticulous annual cleaning can Legionnaires’ disease be prevented. So when we say annual maintenance is important, we’re not kidding.

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