If you own or operate cooling towers on a property, you may be unaware that Legionella could cause an outbreak in your system. Managing this dangerous bacteria is an important part of responsibly running a cooling tower, so in order to be sure you are doing your due diligence, you should learn more about Legionella testing for cooling towers.
Legionella in Cooling Towers
Cooling towers are one of the most prominent locations of Legionella proliferation. They contain numerous features that promote Legionella growth, and once an outbreak is suspected, several people may already be very ill. The microbes spread to humans via water droplets, which cooling towers often create through mist and vapor as they cool using water.
Legionella causes a number of illnesses in humans, including Pontiac fever and its namesake Legionnaires’ disease. While Pontiac fever is generally mild and resembles the flu with its diarrhea, chills, muscle aches, and nausea, Legionnaires’ disease is much more severe. Causing lung inflammation and serious pneumonia, Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal in as many as 10% of the people who are infected with it. For this reason, ensuring that your cooling towers are not harboring Legionella bacteria is important for the safety of everyone who sets foot on your property.
How to Test Cooling Towers for Legionella
As you consider how to test your cooling towers for Legionella bacteria, you will need to understand how cooling towers work. You will also need to keep in mind the specifics of your particular building or facility and how your water system works. It is best to examine these details with the help of a Legionella compliance expert who can do a full review of your system and offer guidance about how to proceed.
Understand Visual Aspects of Your Tower
The first step in testing your cooling towers is to understand what your cooling towers look like so that you can properly identify them. If you purchased a building that already had cooling towers in place, you may not be sure of exactly where they are, or you may not have noticed one because you did not recognize it. Cooling towers typically consist of a fan, basin of water, and pipes leading into and out of the basin. However, these towers come in a variety of forms, so be sure to review which type you have.
Keep Building Characteristics in Mind
Remember that certain buildings are much more likely to have cooling towers than others. Industrial facilities are the most likely, like molding and chemical manufacturers. However, locations that utilize significant air conditioning will also likely have towers; these may include, among others, hospitals, multi-story office buildings, and hotels.
Define the Search Zone
If a Legionella outbreak has occurred in your area, you must define which areas you should search to locate the cooling tower responsible. Trace people’s locations back within the previous 14 days, including during transit and leisure activities. Symptoms may not present immediately, so reviewing only the last few days may leave critical gaps in your knowledge.
Compliance Regulations for Cooling Towers
In order to ensure that cooling towers are not a health threat to people who live near buildings that use them, local and state governments typically enforce regulations for the operation and inspection of cooling towers. Most often, these regulations stipulate that individuals who own a cooling tower must hire a qualified expert at least once a year to review their system for risks that could contribute to the growth and proliferation of Legionella bacteria. This includes refining the system to remove dead legs and keep the water at an appropriate temperature that inhibits the growth of bacteria.
In addition, a water treatment expert may be required as part of your local regulations. This professional will be able to examine your water system and make suggestions for chemicals and other treatments that can keep your water clean and safe so that Legionella have no foothold to grow. This will also improve your environmental footprint and can make your system more efficient with a longer life; water treatment helps to prevent issues like corrosion and biofilms that can foul your equipment and lead to costly repairs.
Tenant Owned Cooling Towers
If a tenant owns a cooling tower, they are subject to the same regulations as normal businesses and building owners. However, if a tenant fails to comply with regulations, responsibility shifts to the building owner to force their compliance or solve the problem themselves.
Speak to the Legionella Testing Professionals
If you are unsure whether Legionella is a problem in your system, or if individuals have gotten sick after visiting your property, reach out to the experts at Tower Water. These professionals can review your system and craft a long-term Legionella plan to keep your water and cooling towers safe.