If you are in charge of managing a commercial water system, you likely have a lot to think about, from efficiency and function to safety. State and local governments maintain regulations specifically about the presence of Legionella in commercial water systems, which is another aspect that you must keep in mind.
To prevent Legionella from growing in commercial water systems, you should keep to a consistent and thorough water treatment schedule in addition to other strategies that are customized for your facility. Understanding some of your options can help you to make a more informed choice about the methods that will work best for you.
The Risks of Legionella
Legionella is a significant risk in water systems, not only as a hazard to the system itself but also as a health danger to humans. This gram negative bacteria was first officially recorded in 1959 in Pontiac, Michigan—heralding the name of its related illness, Pontiac fever. However, cases of both Pontiac fever and Legionnaires’ disease are likely severely underreported, because mild infections can behave similarly to the seasonal flu.
Despite this, an average of 14,000 cases of these two illnesses are reported each year, and as many as one in ten infections can be fatal. Respiratory failure may lead to shock and subsequent organ failure that results in death as the Legionella bacteria spread throughout the body and interfere with the function of vital organs.
In order to prevent this health hazard, building owners and managers are responsible for maintaining regular water treatment and other means of safety in their facilities.
Maintaining Comprehensive Water Management
Water management is made up of multiple parts, each of which plays its own important role in preventing Legionella from gaining a foothold in a system. One of the simplest means of controlling the bacteria is to keep water temperatures within a range in which Legionella bacteria either cannot continue to proliferate or even die after some time.
Unfortunately, achieving this can be easier said than done, especially for potable water with which human contact is expected. The temperatures that successfully kill Legionella instantly or within a few minutes are hot enough to cause severe burns to humans in a matter of seconds. This does not mean, however, that buildings cannot maintain a temperature that is prohibitive toward uncontrolled Legionella growth.
Disinfecting the system and keeping up with maintenance that removes or addresses corrosion and biofilms are other water management steps that will reduce the incidence of Legionella growth.
By preventing the development of biofilms, scaling and other factors that damage the insides of a water system and may lead to fouling, you are not only increasing the longevity of your system but are also removing safe havens in which Legionella bacteria may hide and locate nutrients with which to grow and multiply.
Finally, be sure that stagnant water in your system is remedied as soon as possible. Water that flows infrequently will not be reached or treated as consistently as it should be, and it will be harder to regulate temperature and perform other preventative tasks.
Treating Potable and Non-Potable Water
Directly treating the water within a system is another method of preventing Legionella from growing in a commercial system. The type and amount of treatment required will depend upon the specific nature of your system and what practices you already have in place. Chlorination and the use of chlorine dioxide or monochloramines are some of the most common options, though other treatments such as ultraviolet light and even copper-silver ion generation can also prove useful.
However, each option has strengths and weaknesses, which is why it is wise to work on your treatment plan with a skilled Legionella expert. Chlorination is not very effective in the face of biofilms, for example, but copper-silver ions can overcome this challenge.
Despite this, the use of both strategies together can compromise the integrity of plastic piping in your water system, leading to damage and premature repairs. This is why you should consider developing a personalized strategy with a water treatment expert based upon the unique nature of your specific water system.
Work with the Water Treatment Experts on Your Commercial Water System
A one-size-fits-all approach is never the solution to Legionella in a commercial water system. The experts will take into consideration the features of your building, your goals, state and local regulations and a variety of other factors to develop a water treatment plan that works for you. Legionella Compliance Solutions would be happy to help you navigate this process; reach out to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation with a professional.