When it comes to keeping a building running smoothly, both residential and commercial properties rely on water more than you may expect. From drinking to cooling important machinery, water plays a vital role in the functioning of a building. However, with water can come a variety of issues, such as bacterial contamination. For commercial facilities especially, microorganisms and contaminants in the water can threaten not only the efficiency and efficacy of the machines and equipment that use water but also the wellbeing and safety of the people who visit the building each day. In addition, state and local governments continue to implement progressively more comprehensive regulations that dictate how water should be treated in order to keep it safe. This is where Legionella compliance services come in. Whether you are hearing about Legionella for the first time or need assistance refining your water treatment plan to tackle all of the problems you are facing in your facility, the experts are here to help.
Why Legionella Compliance Services Matters — And To Whom
Legionella compliance is a vital aspect of using water in any building, though commercial facilities are most at risk. Legionella is a gram negative bacteria that infiltrates and proliferates within fresh water; this means that it can be present in almost any building. Left unchecked, Legionella will continue to multiply until an outbreak occurs. When water is aerosolized, such as through a water fountain, shower or cooling tower, particles of contaminated water enter the air and are carried by the breeze, potentially miles away from their point of origin. Once these droplets come into contact with the mucous membranes in humans — such as in the mouth, nose and eyes — the Legionella can cause sickness.
The most common type of illness resulting from Legionella exposure is Pontiac fever, which presents similarly to the seasonal flu and can be deadly to the same populations to whom the flu is a risk. Body aches, chills, nausea and headaches are common. However, in some severe cases, Legionella can cause its namesake Legionnaires’ Disease. This much more dangerous illness results in rapid and severe inflammation of the lungs that can be fatal to as many as one in ten people who fall ill with it.
Unfortunately, the sicknesses caused by Legionella can often look like other types of illness or simply being “under the weather” in minor cases. This means that learning that a Legionella outbreak has occurred may take longer than it should, and many people may be infected in the meantime. Thus, progressively more comprehensive Legionella compliance services regulations have been enacted across the country to better track, control and even prevent the spread of this potentially fatal bacteria. As a commercial building owner, you are responsible for maintaining compliance so that the people who live and work in your area are safe from potential contaminants in your water.
If you own and operate a commercial property in New York, you are required by local law 77 and Title 24 to conduct regular maintenance and inspections on your cooling towers to prevent the growth and spread of Legionella. This includes following ASHRAE 188 and 12-2000 standards and demonstrating a comprehensive water management plan. You must test your towers quarterly in addition to a wide variety of other compliance matters. For assistance navigating your responsibilities as a commercial building, trust the experts.
Most educational buildings rely on cooling towers to keep the climate moderate within the facility. However, constantly changing and evolving regulations can make keeping up with the laws a challenge, especially with so many vulnerable young people present on site. An expert water treatment and Legionella prevention company can help you to ensure that your HVAC system is properly protected and that both your short- and long-term plans for bacteria prevention are compliant and robust. As an additional benefit, thorough and professional water treatment can improve the longevity and efficiency of your equipment, reducing the overall cost that you pay in premature repairs, replacements and utility costs.
When it comes to keeping a close eye on buildings, healthcare facilities are the most stringently regulated. Due to the high number of vulnerable people present at any given time, it is vital that hospitals and other similar locations keep Legionella at bay aggressively and effectively. This includes cooling tower inspections every 90 days and consistent water testing. The state is currently working toward updated regulations that no longer allow a single company to perform all of a facility’s water treatment and Legionella testing. This means that now is a good time to ensure that you have an expert Legionella team on your side.
When it comes to the use of cooling towers, few places use them so ubiquitously as heavy industrial facilities. These locations, which work on large projects and in bulk, may utilize cooling towers that are themselves the size of small buildings and can send out more total aerosolized water than a small town. With larger cooling towers and a high demand for water, heavy industry is particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of Legionella. Whether you need water treatment services to keep your facility safe or remediation for an outbreak that is just beginning, it is important that you rely on the experts — and, specifically, experts who possess a 7G category license. This is a compliance requirement for Legionella remediation. Stay ahead of any emergencies and establish a relationship with 7G professionals such as those at Tower Water before a problem arises.
Even though light industry does not produce the large or bulk items that heavy industry does, it still often requires the extensive use of cooling towers. This opens light industrial facilities up to Legionella outbreaks and the need for consistent and thorough compliance with state and local laws. For these facilities, one of the most important features of Legionella prevention is consistent testing and a customized maintenance and cleaning schedule that accurately reflects the state of the building. Experts such as those at Tower Water can provide a custom assessment and strategy for water treatment that is based upon the unique risk factors of your specific building, such as structural problems, the type of water system you have and even the composition of your local water.
Yes, even residential locations are required to do their due diligence in keeping Legionella at bay. This applies to water towers too, especially following the multiple legionella outbreaks in the Bronx in 2015 and as recently as 2018. While much of a building’s residential water comes from the city and is already treated, do not forget that keeping your water system in good repair and maintaining your water heater at the recommended temperature are important steps toward preventing the growth of dangerous bacteria.
When it comes to the dangers that Legionella poses, few places are as vulnerable as retirement facilities. Full of those who are older and often struggling with immunocompromised reactions to bacteria and pathogens, it is very easy for Legionella to sweep a retirement home and cause a significant number of fatalities. Adhering to an appropriate maintenance and water treatment schedule is the first step toward keeping retirement-aged individuals safe in your building; be sure to seek the guidance of a professional so that you can stop Legionella before it ever begins.
The Systems Most At Risk
Legionella is a type of bacteria that thrives in fresh water. Since salt water is not the standard for use almost anywhere, that means that Legionella can even crop up in some unexpected places as long as water is available. However, some systems are at particular risk of an outbreak due to either their location or simply how they use and store water. Many systems that output mist or aerosolized droplets are particularly dangerous, since this expels contaminated water into the air and enables it to make contact with humans. If you operate any of the following systems, be aware that your risk of becoming the epicenter of a Legionella outbreak is higher than you may have originally imagined.
Cooling towers are the number-one offender when it comes to Legionella outbreaks. They can be difficult to keep clean, and the way that they use water automatically generates mist and evaporation during heat exchange that shoots particles (including those contaminated with Legionella) into the air. States such as New York have placed stringent requirements on cooling towers due to their frequent origin for Legionella in the past. In order to remain compliant with Legionella prevention regulations, you will need to navigate the following requirements specifically for your cooling tower(s):
Certifications & Validation: Before you begin operating a cooling tower for the first time, you must report it to the state government for the purposes of outbreak tracing if necessary. You will also need to maintain (and validate) your documentation, manuals and log sheets for your tower every 90 days; this can be done by a professional company such as Tower Water. Professionals can also perform an audit yearly to catch issues with certification before you receive a fine.
Inspections: Legionella inspections are some of the most common compliance actions that will be taken at your cooling tower. Inspections must occur every 90 days and must be submitted to an approved ELAP certified lab. Tower Water has established relationships with such experts to ensure that your inspections are always compliant. Inspections may need to be done via culturing, the PCR method or the DFA method depending upon the unique factors of your specific system.
Maintenance: Maintenance, including weekly monitoring, is also required as part of Legionella compliance services. You will need to regularly upload your maintenance schedule and any significant findings to the statewide portal for cooling towers. In addition, maintenance includes reviewing the efficacy of any existing water treatment methods, keeping areas disinfected, clean and more.
Remote Monitoring: The experts at TW can equip your system with remote monitoring to give you more power and knowledge with less work. Remote monitoring can report on the state of your water, the chemicals and composition within it and other problems as soon as they arise, from a remote location. This means less hassle for you, since you will not need to physically be present to check many of the metrics that you would regularly examine in your water.
Domestic Hot Water
Just because you do not have a cooling tower — or your cooling tower is adequately maintained for compliance — does not mean that your building is safe from Legionella outbreaks that arise elsewhere. Domestic hot water can be a breeding ground for this bacteria because humans tend to use water that is within the ideal temperature range for Legionella growth. Think of the hot water you use regularly and how it comes in contact with you; whether you are a hospital using hot water to wash patients’ dishes after meals or an educational facility that supplies hot water for showers at the gym for sporting events, Legionella could become a problem if the water system is not adequately maintained. One of the most effective ways to combat Legionella in domestic hot water is to keep your water at the appropriate temperatures. Some facilities turn down their water heaters in order to save money, but this can spell trouble. Work with the pros to determine the water temperature that works for your building to prevent Legionella growth without causing scalding injuries for users.
Fountains, Water Features & Pools
You may not think too much about smaller water features when it comes to water treatment, but few objects provide more direct interaction with water than fountains, water features and pools. Think of the steam coming off of a hot tub or the water particles splashing into the air after someone jumps in the pool and you will quickly realize just how frequently the water in these locations becomes aerosolized — and how often it can directly enter the human body. Chemical treatment is one way to prevent bacterial growth here, but water temperature is another valuable tool. Keeping a fountain or pool cooler than Legionella’s preferred growth range is possible. The guidelines on keeping these items free from Legionella is not yet as fleshed out as that of cooling towers and other larger machinery, so trust the experts to guide you on what works.
The Steps Required For Legionella Compliance
The exact formula that makes up the “right” Legionella compliance services will vary for each and every building. No two maintenance and prevention plans will be the same — or at least they shouldn’t be, because an expert compliance company understands that the approach to water treatment and Legionella safety should be customized to each client and their specific needs and risks. However, in general, Legionella compliance services will follow the same broad outline. As you consider what you need to accomplish in order to remain compliant, be sure your plan has touched on each of the following areas in detail.
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, as the saying goes, and this is doubly true for Legionella outbreaks. Preventing the bacteria from ever taking hold is much better than tackling an outbreak in your system, both in terms of ease and safety. You should maintain a robust Legionella prevention plan that thoroughly details your decisions on water temperature, how you prevent stagnating water, how you clean and disinfect your system and what equipment (such as remote monitoring) you rely on to keep you up-to-date and maintain a safe system. Each of these areas of prevention should be customized to your specific building, water composition and water usage, which is why it is wise to establish a relationship with a trusted Legionella compliance services company.
Sometimes, you may not find out that your prevention plan is not sufficient until it is too late, and Legionella bacteria have already proliferated to dangerous levels in your system. This is when remediation begins; it is the process by which Legionella is removed from a water system so that the system is restored to safe operating levels. You will need to rely on a professional such as Tower Water to help with this, because your plumbing will need to be inspected and any affected water identified. Legionella may not yet have spread through your entire system, and the approach for killing or neutralizing the bacteria may vary depending upon where it is located. Water temperature adjustment, such as flushing the entire system with water above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, is one approach to remediation. However, if you have experienced an outbreak or higher than acceptable levels of Legionella bacteria, your prevention plan will also need to be reviewed with a professional so that the incident does not happen again.
Risk assessments are valuable tools to determine whether your facility’s prevention plan is sufficient. A professional will audit your logbooks and other information and give insight into the quality of both your plan and your recordkeeping — both of which are vital if you want to remain in compliance with local and state regulations. Additionally, you will be audited on your employees’ training and competence to ensure that you have adequately informed all individuals who are in any way responsible for your water system.
Water sampling is a valuable tool to catch Legionella before it becomes an outbreak and to remain in regulatory compliance. However, sampling is more nuanced than simply sticking a dipstick into the water. The location of water samples from a cooling tower will differ from the ideal location in a hot water storage tank. It is also vital that water samples are taken (and stored) correctly, which should be left up to the pros. Tower Water would be happy to help you set up a regular sampling schedule to demonstrate during compliance audits that you are a proactive and trustworthy business when it comes to actively taking steps to combat Legionella.
Testing is a mandatory part of maintaining Legionella compliance services; typically, you must test your water every 90 days. Tower Water offers both emergency testing if you believe that you may be experiencing an outbreak as well as regular, scheduled testing to keep you in compliance. We understand the testing requirements and hand-deliver the containers to an elite, approved laboratory that is qualified to test your water according to regulations. However, we do not stop at just Legionella; we can also help you understand more about your water so that you can make informed treatment decisions, such as learning your water’s pH, composition or temperature.
Water management plans are even more comprehensive than Legionella prevention plans — and as a result, facilities often experience greater benefits from them. These plans include evaluations of efficiency and system-wide risk, which can result in better choices that use less energy, reduce utility bills and result in better flow and output. A well cared for system will need fewer repairs and is less likely to suffer from premature fouling and wear, which is why many facilities opt to have an expert craft a water management plan that can save them money in the long term.
What To Do If You Have Received A Summons Or Violation
Legionella compliance is a nuanced and increasingly detailed process, and so it can be easy to make mistakes — especially if you do not have a compliance company assisting you. If you have received a summons or notice of violation, you will typically have a short amount of time (ranging from one to seven days) to fix the problem. You may challenge a summons, or you may simply pay the fine. If you intend to challenge the summons, Tower Water can help you prepare for your court date and ensure that you have all the necessary paperwork and evidence to put your best foot forward.
Trust A Reliable Legionella Compliance Services To Keep Your Company Compliant And Safe
Legionella compliance services can be a tricky business, because regulations are consistently changing and adapting as scientists and medical professionals learn more about Legionella, its risks and how to prevent it. Trusting a reputable compliance company to help you navigate the process provides a number of benefits, from taking the burden of compliance off of your shoulders to offering direct water services such as chemical treatment and remote monitoring.
The experts at Tower Water focus solely on keeping companies in compliance with their regulatory responsibilities. We would be happy to serve as your point of contact for all Legionella questions and services so that you are prepared ahead of time, before any issues occur. Reach out to schedule an appointment to learn more about what we can do for your facility or to ask any compliance and Legionella questions that you may have. We are always happy to help.