Many offices may not be occupied at some point. Whether due to the coronavirus, an employee retreat or even construction work on the building, offices that come back after significant time away will need to address certain potential issues or tasks when they return.
One of those tasks is examining the water system. The elements that you should test for upon your return to the office depends on how long you were gone and what protections the building already has in place. If you need help keeping your water safe during a long break, do not hesitate to reach out to the experts for assistance.
Do I Need To Do Legionella Water Testing When The Office Reopens?
The short answer is yes. Test the water in your building any time that the office has been closed for more time than usual. Water can develop several issues if left to stagnate. Because the water system is not being used when a building is closed, the water in the pipes stops moving.
Any chemical treatment (disinfection) or filtration systems in place to maintain water quality will not function as intended if the water is stagnant or not circulating. Test your water before you reopen the office so that any health hazards can be addressed before employees and visitors return to the building.
The Timeline for Copper And Lead Contamination
Not all water pipes in a building are made from the same material. Depending on the age of the building and the pipes leading to and from the offices within, water may be passing through pipes made of copper, galvanized steel, lead, PEX, PVC and more.
When water remains stagnant and unused in copper and metal pipes, impurities can leach into the water—a problem that is much less prevalent when water moves through pipes at a fast and steady rate. Copper and lead can make people sick and experience long-term health problems. Depending on how your building’s water system is set up and whether the pipes are internally scaled, or corroded metal levels can rise to unsafe numbers in just days.
The Growth of Mold Over Time
Another common risk with damp, motionless areas is mold growth. Mold can develop in days, and some types of mold are harmful to humans when they breathe in the microscopic spores. If the weather has been moist during the shutdown, or if it has been warm outside, mold can grow even quicker. Always test for mold when you reopen your office and apply biocides if necessary.
Bacterial Proliferation During Reduced Usage
The most important test to perform when reopening an office after an extended closure is bacterial testing. During your absence, any disinfection that would otherwise keep bacteria at bay has been consumed and not been circulating through the water system. Bacteria may have gained a foothold during this time—especially Legionella. This microscopic organism can cause severe illness or even death if humans inhale contaminated water droplets in the air.
The good news is that Legionella does not reproduce quickly enough to cause an outbreak after only a few days of absence. However, if more than a week has passed since the water has been used in a building, you should always have a professional test for Legionella. Some outbreaks can take months to form, but if your previous protections were not foolproof, some colony-forming units (CFUs) may already be present to kickstart a bacterial explosion.
How Often Should You Test Your Water?
Responsible building owners should test their water on a regular and ongoing basis, regardless of whether the building has been closed. Weekly onsite testing for disinfection chemicals is recommended and may even be required by your jurisdiction to prevent Legionella outbreaks. It is wise to send samples off to a certified laboratory at least quarterly, if not more frequently, for detailed analysis.
This will give you a comprehensive understanding of the types of organisms colonizing your pipes, so that you can amend your water treatment strategy if necessary. If you maintain a regular testing schedule, it may conveniently align with your office’s reopening. However, if it does not, be sure to conduct a separate water test immediately before the office opens. Do not wait for your next scheduled testing date.
Trust The Experts To Help With Your Legionella Water Testing
If you need help with water testing after a prolonged absence, or if you suspect that your existing water treatment strategy is not working as well as it should, contact the experts. The professionals at Tower Water provide customized solutions for each client and would be happy to help you understand your unique risk factors. Reach out to schedule an appointment for water testing or to amend your strategy.