Legionella and Legionnaires’ Disease
Stagnant or standing water in a plumbing system can increase the risk for growth and spread of Legionella and other biofilm-associated bacteria. When water is stagnant, hot water temperatures can decrease to the Legionella growth range (25–42°C).
Stagnant water can also lead to low or undetectable levels of disinfectant, such as chlorine. Ensure that your water system is safe to use after a prolonged shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease & other diseases associated with water.
People at increased risk of developing Legionnaires’ disease, such as those with weakened immune systems, should consult with a provider regarding participation in flushing, cooling tower cleaning, or other activities that may generate aerosols.
8 steps to minimize Legionella risk before your business or building reopens:
- Develop a comprehensive water management program (WMP) for your water system and all devices that use water.
Ensure your water heater is properly maintained and the temperature is correctly set.
Determine if your manufacturer recommends draining the water heater after a prolonged period of disuse. Ensure that all maintenance activities are carried out according to the manufacturer’s instructions or by professionals.
Flush your water system
Flush hot and cold water through all points of use (e.g., showers, sink faucets). Flushing may need to occur in segments (e.g., floors, individual rooms) due to facility size and water pressure. The purpose of building flushing is to replace all water inside building piping with fresh water.
Clean all decorative water features, such as fountains.
After the water feature has been re-filled, measure disinfectant levels to ensure that the water is safe for use.
Ensure hot tubs/spas are safe for use
Check for existing guidelines from your local or state regulatory agency before use.
- Ensure cooling towers are clean and well-maintained
Ensure that cooling towers are maintained (including start-up and shut-down procedures) per manufacturer’s guidelines and industry best practices.
- Ensure safety equipment including fire sprinkler systems, eye wash stations, and safety showers are clean and well-maintained
- Maintain your water system
After your water system has returned to normal, ensure that the risk of Legionella growth is minimized by regularly checking water quality parameters such as temperature, pH, and disinfectant levels.
Follow your water management program, document activities, and promptly intervene when unplanned program deviations arise.
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