Cooling towers are possible sources of contamination to the environment, with implications to human health. Cooling towers are known sources for disease outbreaks. The cooling process releases aerosols, which if cooling towers are not adequately sanitized, pathogenic bacteria may be released and contaminate the environment. Compounding the risk of pathogenic bacteria release, cooling towers provide ideal conditions for biofilms to grow which encourage the exchange of antibiotic resistance genes. Current sanitation methods are unable to prevent or effectively remove biofilms in cooling towers. Therefore, a new sanitation method is necessary. This research explores the feasibility of using electrical pulse generators (EPG) manufactured by Environmental Energy Technologies Inc. (EET) to disinfect cooling tower water. This sanitation method constantly lyses bacterial cells by sending pulsed electrical fields (PEF) through the water. EET has developed a standard EPG (STD EPG) that is currently in use and an experimental EPG (EXP EPG) that is a purportedly improved version of the STD EPG. The purpose of this study was to determine if the EXP EPG was more effective than the STD EPG to sanitize cooling towers through evaluating the microbial CFUs/ ml and diversity. Water samples from each EPG treatment were collected from several building installation on the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) campus. These were examined for microbial richness, diversity, antibiotic resistance, and identity using the 16S rRNA gene. The results of the study suggest that there is antibiotic resistant bacteria present in cooling towers. In addition to this seasonality impacted species diversity where the fall had a lower diversity than the summer. Finally, it was determined the two EPG treatments both able to effectively sanitized cooling towers, but it was indistinguishable which treatment was more effective.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Pulse generators--Evaluation; Cooling towers--Sanitation; Drug resistance in microorganisms

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Environmental Science (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)


Jeffrey Lodge

Advisor/Committee Member

Ali Ogut

Advisor/Committee Member

Karl Korfmacher


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes