If you are responsible for overseeing or managing the water systems at a facility, part of your role is staying compliant with regulations on water quality. While areas of the country differ in their specific rules regarding water quality and treatment, one consistent standard is the regulation of Legionella. This bacteria can cause harm or even death to humans, and so it is important to follow the law and keep Legionella under control in any of your water systems.
What Is Legionella Bacteria?
Legionella first arose in 1976 in Philadelphia, when residents of the city who attended an American Legion Convention t fell ill. The cause was later traced to water in a cooling tower at the hotel these individuals were staying in. The bacterium responsible for the outbreak was named Legionella after the American Legion event.
Legionella is a type of bacteria that forms naturally, as part of the natural environment, that inhibits fresh water, such as streams and lakes. The water in a building’s water systems has likely, at one point, been connected to local freshwater, Legionella can spread to a facility’s water supply, whether potable or non-potable.
Legionella can cause a number of illnesses, including its namesake, Legionnaires’ disease. Once infected, a person typically presents with symptoms of chills, headaches, diarrhea, cough, and a high fever. It can be particularly lethal; as many as 10% of those who develop Legionnaires’ disease die from it. The bacteria are also responsible for Pontiac fever, which can mimic the flu.
The Basics Of Legionella Compliance
Because Legionella is a relatively common natural occurrence, it is important that you take steps to mitigate its growth and spread in your own facility’s water, not only in order to comply with government regulations but also to keep visitors, tenants and staff safe and healthy. Compliance with Legionella recommendations includes assessing the state of your water system and making active changes as necessary to address areas of where the bacteria may develop.
Conducting Risk Assessments
The first step in handling Legionella compliance in your building or facility is to conduct risk assessments to understand how your water system could be currently affected. This risk assessment is typically performed by someone certified or highly skilled in the area. That may be an in-house consultant or someone from a water treatment company or better yet Legionella Consulting business like Tower Water.
The risk assessment is made up of multiple parts, beginning with a comprehensive diagram of the water system that tracks how water moves through the facility. Next, a report is generated noting risk factors, such as opportunities for the water in the system to turn into breathable droplets (such as cooling tower misting)or deposits within the pipes that could encourage Legionella growth. Other risks include standing water in the system and temperatures between 60 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, where Legionella is able to thrive.
Managing The Risk
After the risk assessment is complete, you can make informed decisions about how to prevent the growth of this bacteria and maintain the quality of your water. Options for ensuring that Legionella treatment remains within government regulations include chlorination of tanks and other the water systems, removal of unused sections or pipes where water sits stagnant. Even if you have water gathering underneath insulation of pipes this could be an issue. Staff training is needed to ensure proper compliance.
If you have not sufficiently performed these tasks at your facility, you will need to do so or risk legal consequences for non-compliance with Legionella control measures. However, if you have already worked to reduce the presence of Legionella in your water, the expert who performs your risk assessment may inform you that there is no “reasonably foreseeable risk” of an outbreak. This means that you may continue your water treatment regimen and do not need to take any further action, except to monitor and follow your plan, in order to remain in compliance.
Work With A Professional Legionella Compliance Company
If you are currently considering how your facility or building is performing in regards to state or federal mandates on Legionella compliance, it is important that you work with a skilled compliance company that can perform a risk assessment at your premises. A Legionella expert can review your current system and make suggestions to improve the way that you manage the growth of Legionella and other bacteria that could harm staff, tenants and visitors.
You will also see benefits from a consistent, high-quality Compliance Expert. These include a zero violations, ability to know that your always in compliance and that the DOH will be able to inspect at any given time. Reach out to Tower Water to discuss your current Legionella strategy and learn more effective or cost-reducing ways to manage the bacteria. We set the standard in Legionella management and would be happy to review your current water systems so that you can be sure you are relying on high-quality water free from this dangerous bacteria.