If you are examining your water system or thinking about making changes, you may have heard of the term Legionella. This dangerous bacteria can be present in any freshwater source, and if it finds its way into your water system, you will need to take swift and thorough action to ensure that you eliminate it before it begins to proliferate. Understanding where Legionella comes from and what causes it to flourish is the first step in keeping your system free of this microbe.
What Is Legionella Bacteria?
Legionella is a type of bacteria that grows in freshwater. Most often, this is in lakes and streams, but it can develop in your building’s water system if you do not take steps to keep your water clean. It may appear in hot tubs, decorative fountains, hot water tanks, and a number of other areas.
Tackling Legionella as soon as possible is critical because this bacterium is responsible for a number of diseases. Pontiac fever typically manifests as a mild, flu-like illness, but the namesake Legionnaires’ disease is much more severe. Legionnaires’ disease presents as a dangerous lung infection (pneumonia), and in up to 10% of individuals affected, it may be fatal. For this reason, keeping your water free of Legionella is a serious concern.
Legionella spreads to humans via water vapor or mist when it is breathed in. This can occur as part of the cooling mechanism in a cooling tower, the steam from a shower or hot tub, or any other method that generates water droplets in the air.
The Causes Of Legionella
A number of things can cause Legionella to multiply in your freshwater. Sometimes the onus of responsibility is on you, but Legionella may also enter a water system entirely by accident. You must do your part to care for your water system and stay cognizant of the outside factors that could introduce Legionella.
High Temperatures In Systems That Encourages Growth
Legionella bacteria flourish in tepid water. This is why hot tubs that are not drained after every use are a particular risk for harboring these microbes. The Legionella bacteria prefer temperatures between 77 and 108 degrees Fahrenheit; since hot tubs are typically kept right around 100 degrees, they can provide the optimal environment for Legionella growth.
A similar issue can occur with showers and hot water heaters. While the recommended temperature for a hot water heater is around 120 degrees, some people may elect to turn the temperature down in order to save on energy costs. However, this may bring the water into the danger zone and create a breeding ground for Legionella.
Water Systems That Aren’t Properly Maintained
Building owners can play a large part in keeping their water system safe from Legionella. Ensuring that hot water in hot tubs and water heaters is kept at the appropriate temperature is a good start. Maintaining water systems is also important; dead legs, where water rarely flows and exchanges, can provide a safe haven for Legionella bacteria that have found their way into the water. Similarly, water that is contaminated with algae or other organic material can fall victim to biofilms; these sticky sheets of organic matter can shield Legionella from treatment chemicals and other means of removing them from the system.
Contamination During Construction
Construction or addition onto the system is one of the simplest ways for Legionella to enter. Any exposure to outside sources, including soil that has been in contact with contaminated freshwater, can provide an opportunity for Legionella bacteria to take up residence in a water system that was previously clean. This is why testing the water for Legionella following any changes or additions to a water system is always a smart idea; the previous lack of Legionella bacteria is not an indicator that the water system is safe.
Speak To A Legionella Bacteria Specialist
If you are trying to determine whether you may have Legionella bacteria in your water, or if you know that you do and are looking for a way to fix the issue, you will need to rely on the professionals. Removing Legionella from water requires the use of carefully measured chemicals and other options that you should not attempt on your own.
The expert technicians at Legionella Compliance Solutions set the standard in Legionella treatment for water systems of all types and sizes. Reach out to schedule an appointment, where a skilled expert can evaluate your unique system and make personalized suggestions about how to proceed. From testing the water for Legionella and determining exactly which type of bacteria you have to create a carefully crafted strategy for removing the microbes from your water supply, Legionella Compliance Solutions can guide you through the process and make this complicated task much simpler.