Cooling towers are critical to the proper operation of many facilities, they are effective in cooling the critical spaces, or systems that are important to the facility. However, cooling towers must be regularly maintained, and part of this process is testing for bacteria in the water.
Bacteria can cause a number of issues, both to the cooling tower itself, as well as the people who live and work in and near the facility that uses the tower.
What Is Legionella?
Legionella is a specific type of gram-negative bacteria that tends to proliferate in cooling towers. In fact, cooling towers are one of the main culprits for the spread of Legionella.
The reason that these bacteria tend to thrive so much at facilities with towers is that it grows best in temperatures between 77 degrees and 108 degrees Fahrenheit; because many people want to simply “set it and forget it” when it comes to cooling tower operation, Legionella may grow quickly given the right environment.
Similarly, a lack of regular maintenance in cooling towers can cause the development of biofilms and corrosion, creating areas where Legionella can hide and continue to grow even after water treatment.
Why Test for Legionella?
The reasons to test for Legionella in cooling towers are multifaceted. Perhaps the most important reason is to keep the people near the cooling tower safe.
Legionella can come into contact with humans when water is turned to vapor, mist, or aerosol, which happens frequently as part of the normal operation of a cooling tower.
The water droplets in the air can be inhaled through the nose or mouth, or they may come into contact with the eyes. Once Legionella bacteria has entered the human body, it can cause a range of health issues.
The least severe is Pontiac fever, which presents much like the flu and is about equally as dangerous; those in high-risk groups will be more likely to experience severe side effects. Everyone else can expect a fever, chills, muscle aches, and loss of appetite.
Those who do not come down with Pontiac fever may develop a much more serious disease caused by the bacteria: Legionnaires’ disease.
Fatal in as many as one in ten who fall ill, Legionnaires’ disease requires immediate medical attention, as an affected individual can experience rapid, severe lung inflammation that inhibits the ability to breathe.
Knowing this, testing a cooling tower for Legionella should be a regular occurrence in order to keep people safe.
Aside from the health risks posed by Legionella, excessive bacteria can also be a symptom of an imbalance in the cooling tower system that indicates that other problematic issues, such as corrosion and the development of biofilms, could also be occurring.
Left untreated, these related problems can foul the equipment and cause the need for premature replacement of either the machinery or the entire tower. They can also result in higher energy bills as the tower struggles to cope.
How Often to Test for Legionella in Cooling Towers
In the near future, many local and state governments will maintain regulations that dictate how often Legionella testing should be done at a facility.
However, the proper frequency for testing will be determined by the unique risk factors of your system. It is important to work with a Legionella expert to determine the most effective frequency for keeping Legionella at bay.
The general recommendation is to test your cooling tower water at least quarterly, but if you have struggled with Legionella in the past, you may be encouraged to test weekly or monthly until your system is demonstrated to function well with your current prevention strategy.
If your local or state regulations dictate how often you should test, be sure to comply with this frequency; however, there is no penalty for testing more often than the minimum required in the regulations.
Keeping people safe and ensuring that your tower functions at peak performance are the highest priorities.
Work with the Water Treatment and Legionella Testing Experts
Whether you believe that you already have Legionella or you want to establish a regular testing schedule for your facility, be sure to rely on water treatment experts who can perform a comprehensive test on your system.
Testing does no good if it is not thorough and personalized to account for the unique risk factors of your individual system.
The professionals at Tower Water would be happy to offer personalized guidance about your system’s risks and perform regular testing to keep you in compliance with any local or state regulations. Reach out to schedule an appointment with a water treatment expert.