Legionella bacteria can grow in any equipment that uses freshwater; however, the most common locations are in facilities that utilize recirculating hot water cooling towers, hot tubs and large fountains. In order to keep the building safe for visitors and people in the area, regular Legionella sampling is an important part of maintenance. The Legionella sampling process is straightforward and can be completed in only a few steps; however, working with an experienced Legionella compliance company is wise so that you or the individual performing the testing is not exposed to dangerous bacteria and be guaranteed that the sampling is done right.
Understanding Why Legionella Sampling Occurs
Legionella is a type of bacteria that proliferates in freshwater at temperatures between 77 degrees and 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Building owners may assume that allowing some bacteria to grow in cooling towers and other machinery is normal as part of their operation. However, Legionella can be fatal in humans due to its ability to cause Legionnaires’ disease, an illness that generates sudden onset lung inflammation. For this reason, state and local governments typically mandate that regular Legionella sampling is included in maintenance. Building owners must typically report the results of inspection to the government in order to remain compliant.
The Legionella Sampling Process in Five Steps
Legionella sampling is a straightforward process, but it is best undertaken with the assistance of an experienced Legionella compliance company. Because this bacteria can be dangerous to humans, experts who understand proper guidance on where a particular sample should be taken, personal protective equipment and correct sampling methods will achieve the most accurate results. In order to perform Legionella sampling, the following five steps should be conducted on any equipment that is at risk.
Step 1: Begin Documentation
The first step in Legionella sampling is to choose the most representative locations and document all sample containers. This includes neatly printing on the label of the bottle so that samples are not confused later. Important details to include are the date and time that the sampling took place and the location that the sample was taken from. Be as specific as possible.
Step 2: Collect Water
The location and amount of water collected will depend upon what sort of system is being tested. If domestic equipment such as shower heads, hot water heaters or spas are the current location of testing, be sure to sample water fresh from the system; it is important that the water tested is a first draw sample, or water that has been sitting in the pipes for at least six hours. If the sample is coming from a cooling tower, the water should be drawn from the bulk circulating line. It is not necessary to take samples of the biofilm or debris in the sump. Be sure to label the location that the water was taken from on the sample bottle.
Step 3: Secure the Sample
Be sure that as much water as possible has been collected and placed into its respective container. Once the container is full, tightly secure the lid. It is important—not only for accuracy but also for safety reasons—that the sample container is tightly closed to prevent any leakage.
Step 4: Clean Affected Areas
Once the sample has been tightly secured inside its container, immediately rinse the container that is holding the sample. Do not simply pat it dry; instead, thoroughly rinse it to remove any remaining contaminated water. Be sure to wash your own hands with soap and water for at least one minute after handling the sample.
Step 5: Return Samples to a Lab
Once the sample has been collected, secured and cleaned, the label can be placed on the bottle or package. From there, the sample can be sent to a testing facility or tested locally if resources are available. Be sure to keep the sample at room or ambient temperature; there is no need to refrigerate the sample, and doing so could impact the accuracy of the test results. It should be tested within 48 hours to be considered within protocol, so overnight shipping or drop off is preferred.
Work with Experienced Legionella Sampling Professionals
Whether you would like to have your water sampled for the first time or you need to establish a regular maintenance and sampling schedule for compliance reasons, be sure to rely on experts who have years of experience in testing water for Legionella. Using the services of Tower Water will keep you safe from the dangers of sampling on your own while providing the most accurate and comprehensive testing for your system. Reach out to schedule an appointment with a technician who can review your water system and provide guidance on your unique risk factors and methods of curbing the growth of Legionella in your water.