Legionella Testing, Control & Water Management Plans
Legionella Testing & Control Services
Legionella bacteria is a natural inhabitant in natural water sources that, much like other bacteria, thrive in warm, wet environments. This clearly puts water systems such as cooling towers, ornamental fountains, air washers and others at a high risk for contamination. Unlike some other bacteria in water, though, Legionella has significant risks associated with human interaction. Simply breathing in water droplets containing Legionella can cause what is known as Legionnaire’s disease. With dozens of outbreaks over the past year, some of which resulting in deaths, having an effective plan to protect against this harmful bacterium has never been more important.
A vital piece of your Legionella management plan is testing your water for cultures of the bacteria. Legionella bacteria testing is a challenge based on the nature of how the bacteria acts. Legionella is typically consumed by an amoeba and then multiplies from within in the outside amoeba before exploding and causing an outbreak. This makes ongoing testing crucial to truly know when your system can have a potential bacteria problem.
A standard that is often pointed to is ASHRAE Standard 188 and within this standard, regularly scheduled Legionella testing and response guidelines must be laid out in a Water Management Plan.
Chardon partners with the leading Legionella testing service in the industry to give accurate information about the levels of bacteria. This testing serves as a critical step in maintaining a standard of care for the water system.
Recommended Standards For Legionella Testing
- Survey water systems within building and analze risk.
- Develop a Water Management Plan to control Legionella.
- Validate and document following of the Water Management Plan.
Conditions That Promote Legionella Growth
Legionella pneumophila bacteria are widely distributed in water systems. They tend to grow in biofilms or slime on the surfaces of lakes, rivers and streams, and they are not eradicated by the chlorination used to purify domestic water systems. Low and even non-detectable levels of the organism can colonize a water source and grow to high concentrations under the right conditions.
Water Conditions That Tend To Promote The Growth Of Legionella Include:
- Temperatures between 20° and 50°C (68° – 122°F) (The optimal growth range is 35° – 46°C [95° – 115°F])
- pH between 5.0 and 8.5
- Sediment that tends to promote growth of commensal microflora
- Micro-organisms including algae, flavobacteria and Pseudomonas, which supply essential nutrients for growth of Legionella or harbor the organism (amoebae, protozoa).
Controlling Legionella & Biological Growth
Water safety issues are grabbing the headlines. The deaths reported from Legionnaires disease are particularly disturbing. Knowing that the transmission of this illness is sometimes attributed to cooling towers, we are doing our best to educate our customers about the control of Legionella.
New York State is the first state to issue legislation around the control of Legionella in cooling towers. In a recent document, their Department of Health writes:
“Legionella is common in the environment and grows best in warm water, so when we test cooling towers and evaporative condensers, we are likely to find it. What is important to know is how much legionella is there.”
Knowing the Risk Factors of Legionella
The first step in creating a Legionella management plan is to understand the potential risks your system currently has. Most common problems associated with bacteria like Legionella can be traced back to issues with a variety of water systems (cooling towers, ice machines, decorative fountains, etc.) Whether it’s a lack of biocide feed in the system or stagnant water, Legionella has potential to spread in a variety of ways.
Chardon can come alongside your company to identify risk factors and offer immediate and long-term solutions to help prevent an outbreak Legionella.
Legionella Outbreak Prevention
Preventing an outbreak of Legionella bacteria starts with understanding the risks of your systems and then implementing the proper treatment plan. There are a multitude of organizations from the CDC to the WHO, which all are establishing what it means to properly care for this system.
Water Management Plans
The next step in creating an effective solution to protect against Legionella is to have a Water Management Plan in place. Chardon can help draft this plan for you by using the following steps:
- Survey all building water systems and assess Legionella risk and document current practices
- Report survey results and findings to then provide our best practices and solutions that reduce risk of an outbreak
- Evaluate the results with a committee of people responsible for maintaining the Water Management Plan
- Establish and define the risk management plan in the drafted Water Management Plan
- Implement the plan into your water treatment program as recommended by the survey results and in accordance to our best practice standards (i.e. ASHRAE Standard 188)
What Is A Water Management Plan?
Water Management Plans (WMPs) are programs designed to help maintain and protect your domestic and utility water systems. The main goal of the plan is to reduce the risk of Legionella bacteria growing within your system, and most importantly, reducing the risk of Legionnaire’s disease outbreak. The plan itself will identify areas of risk for the bacteria and its’ growth, as well as potential areas for testing.
Legionella Water Management Plans are becoming an industry standard for larger buildings in the United States. (ASHRAE 188: Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems June 26, 2015. ASHRAE: Atlanta). These programs establish practical steps and best practices for system maintenance and can greatly reduce the risk of any Legionella issues.
Do I Need a Water Management Plan?
Having a Water Management Plan to mitigate the risk of Legionella problems is a great way to protect your employees and tenants from contracting the disease. Determining if your building needs a plan starts with an evaluation of your operation and its’ inherent risk.
For example, Water Management Plans for healthcare facilities are becoming a standard. Buildings that have people who are at an increased risk of Legionnaires’ disease (smokers, people over the age of 65, immunocompromised, etc.) also are encouraged to have a plan.
If your building has water systems like cooling towers, decorative fountains, central humidifiers/misters, centralized hot water system, or more than 10 stories, it is recommended to have Water Management Plans to reduce the risk of Legionella growth.
Water Management Plan Process
Forming A Water Management Plan
Creating a team of your own to implement and validate the plan is the first step in the WMP process.
Analyzing Your Site
A Chardon representative will walk through your water system and establish areas of potential risk for Legionella. This site assessment will help create control measures and best practices to be followed for the WMP.
Testing for Legionella
Following the site assessment, Chardon will help determine where control locations are on your site, and then alongside your team, will determine the testing protocols to be followed. Testing will be done by a Chardon technician and then sent to a state-of-the-art lab for further analysis. Testing frequencies and requirements vary greatly depending on the risks associated with your business operation.
Correct & Remediate the Plan
The final step in implementing a WMP is the ongoing process of correction and adjusting. Along with changes to your building staff, water systems, etc., testing and other control measures should be regularly monitored and updated to best protect your building from Legionella. The updating of the plan is a simple process through an online database/portal, which is used to access and update the information of the WMP.
Water Management Plans with Chardon
After determining if your building will need a Water Management Plan to reduce risk associated with Legionella, Chardon can help you take it from there. Writing a plan can be overwhelming, but we can help create the plan alongside you to limit Legionella exposure.
Chardon can establish the control measures for the best practices at each of your buildings’ risk points and set up a testing program to ensure the correct actions are being implemented by you and your team. Our team of experts can give a risk analysis of your building and help draft a plan for you.
How Chardon Can Help You with Legionella Control & Outbreak Prevention
With extensive experience in the water treatment industry over the last 50 years, Chardon has the tools and the expertise to assist in your Legionella control solutions. Chardon can use a variety of resources and partners to help provide options to fit your water system's needs. From education and risk assessment to a fully customized Water Management Plan, Chardon can work with your team to make recommendations to analyze the risk associated with Legionella bacteria in your building.
Legionella control services we offer include:
- Plan development and implementation assistance
- Consultation on our best practices for Legionella control
- Cooling tower cleaning
- Legionella tests through a world-leading Legionella laboratory
At Chardon Laboratories, we remain committed to helping our customers control this problem. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Biocide and other chemical treatments are often adequate to provide control. However, recent research and findings indicate that it’s not always enough. System design and maintenance procedures are also important.
- Legionella control guidelines continue to evolve and are agencies are recommending written plans that outline the various components of assessment, control, testing and corrective action. In New York, it’s mandatory. It is further speculated that these regulations will migrate to other areas, particularly where there are outbreaks, illness and deaths.
- Testing regulations have tighter control limits and the testing protocols have changed.
- We’ve measured specific pathogenic species and serogroups for years, now guidelines are referring to all species and all serogroups (i.e. the genus of Legionella)
- It is common to find Legionella in the raw water entering your cooling tower. Cities like Flint, Michigan, are representative of the problem of Legionella in their water sources.
- Legionella is sometimes protected inside biofilm and amoeba and is not always detectable until it “amplifies” or explodes, causing an outbreak.
- System design and engineering is essential. It is also important to provide regularly scheduled inspections, cleanings and flushes.
- Bacteria thrives where there is poor water flow and areas within the water system where water is either stagnant (dead-legs) or trapped in pipework that is permanently capped (dead-ends). It is also commonly found in redundant/off-line pumps.
- Even though we use biocides to control the bacteria, biocide can’t kill what it doesn’t contact.
Call us at 800.848.9526 today for more information about Chardon’s Legionella Solutions!