Helpful Guidance for Reopening Your Building
As measures become more effective for controlling the spread of COVID-19, businesses and buildings will reopen at, what we hope is, a safe pace. When this happens, people will be returning to facilities that have been operationally shuttered for at least a month.
In anticipation of buildings reopening, the CDC recently released guidance. Upon re-opening, much of the focus will be on the known measures for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, a commonly over-looked hazard is the safety of the building’s water supply and maintenance of the various water systems.
Why Should Water Safety Be A Consideration Upon Reopening?
In occupied facilities, water flow is relatively constant and consistent. When water does not flow within a water system, it becomes stagnant and grows bacteria. Further, any disinfectant (e.g. Chlorine) added to the water by the public water source, has likely dissipated.
Of particular concern is a pathogenic, water-borne bacteria known as Legionella Pneumophila. While this bacterium is common to the environment, when introduced into a building’s water systems, it presents a potential hazard. Essentially, by inhaling/aspirating water containing certain strains of this bacteria, humans contract the potentially fatal Legionnaires Disease (LD). Sources of infection are often devices that aerosolize water. These include:
- Decorative fountains
- Spas/Hot tubs
- Cooling Towers
- Respiratory therapy equipment
- Air conditioning units
- Ice machines
- Drinking fountains
The good news is that LD is controllable and not contagious. The best prevention is to control the growth of this bacteria in water systems and to reduce the likelihood of inhaling the water, especially among the immuno-compromised population. Here are some measures recommended by the CDC
- Have a Water Management Plan that contains control measures, schedules, task owners, testing
- Here’s a link with instructions: https://www.cdc.gov/legionella/wmp/toolkit/index.html
- Make sure the water heater is set for 120°F
- While heat kills bacteria, be mindful of scalding limitation/specification
- Bacteria thrive/amplify in warm water (68°F-110°)
- Flush your water systems (e.g. showers, faucets etc.)
- Clean all decorative water features
- Make sure whirlpools and spas are safe/meet guidelines
- Ensure cooling towers are clean and well-maintain
- Make sure your fire sprinkler systems, safety showers and eye wash sinks are clean and maintained
Make contact with your local water utility if you learn about any recent water main breaks of
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