Whether you are a business owner who is considering the right water treatment plan or a cooling tower operator who needs to abide by state and local regulations, testing for Legionella in your water is an important part of owning or managing a facility. Legionella can cause severe illness if visitors to your facility are exposed to contaminated water droplets, so it is crucial that you do your part in testing for Legionella and treating it promptly to keep people safe.
What Is Legionella?
Legionella is a potentially dangerous bacteria that can be found in freshwater sources, including rainwater, groundwater, and plumbing systems. It is resilient and thrives in tepid water; even hot tubs are not warm enough to deter the growth of this microbe. Because all buildings rely to some extent on freshwater in order to function, dealing with the threat of Legionella requires a consistent strategy. However, those who operate cooling towers, evaporative condensers, and hot tubs are at particular risk of spreading Legionella.
Once Legionella enters the air via water vapor or aerosolized water, such as from flushing a toilet, it can spread to humans via the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, and mouth. The bacteria can cause a range of symptoms, including Pontiac fever, which resembles the flu. Those afflicted with typically experience muscle aches, diarrhea, nausea, headaches, and a fever, as well as a loss of appetite and possible subsequent weight loss.
However, the most dangerous result of Legionella exposure is Legionnaires’ disease. This severe infection resulting from the bacteria causes dangerous lung inflammation and pneumonia, which can be fatal in as many as 10% of cases. Cooling towers and similar machinery are the most common origin points for Legionnaires’ disease, because their operation requires the consistent vaporization of water.
Testing for Legionella in Water
In order to ensure that you stay apprised of the Legionella situation in your facility, you must be sure to regularly test the water. The best way to do this is with the help of an expert, because Legionella can be difficult to find if other problems such as biofilms are affecting your water system. As part of a Legionella test, which may be required annually by your local government, you should reach out to a water treatment expert who can develop a personalized plan for your building.
Take Routine Building Water Samples
The first step to ensure that Legionella never becomes an issue in your water system is to routinely test the water by taking samples. Be aware that sampling water in order to preemptively prevent a Legionella outbreak is done differently than taking samples when an outbreak has already occurred, which is why working with an expert is important to ensure that you are sampling correctly.
A sampling plan, which details how often and where samples should be taken, is determined by a variety of factors. These may include the age and size of your building, as well as which sites are the most likely to produce aerosolized water and where recent construction or improvements to the system have taken place.
Give Water Samples to an Accredited Microbiology Lab
Once water samples have been obtained, they will need to be submitted to an accredited lab specializing in microbiology. They can take cultures from the water to examine not only the potential presence of Legionella but also, if it is present, which strain you have and how best to treat it in your water. The most dangerous strain that causes disease in humans is Legionella pneumophila, but it is not the only type of Legionella that you need to be concerned about.
As part of your water sampling with a microbiology lab, you may also have access to other useful services, such as water quality analysis and an outbreak response team. Many facilities are happy to offer education and training on Legionella and can perform risk assessments for you to help you develop a strategy for overcoming potential Legionella issues in the future. Be sure to rely on the services of an accredited microbiology lab that works specifically with Legionella, in addition to a water treatment expert who can make actionable changes to your Legionella plan and advise you on alterations needed within your water system.
Consider Hiring an Experienced Legionella Compliance Company
If you are unsure how to proceed with water sampling and testing for Legionella in your water, understand that this process is best left to the professionals. An experienced Legionella compliance company like Tower Water can analyze the unique features of your system and help you develop a strategy to prevent the danger caused by this bacteria. Reach out to schedule an appointment to receive individualized guidance so that your water system remains safe and free of Legionella.