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Photo of the human body and how Legionnaires disease affects it

Preventing Legionnaires’ Disease

Water Technology – Increased outbreaks are pushing facility managers and engineers to take a serious look at solutions. Widely publicized outbreaks have occurred in recent years in hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, health clubs and other locations. Since 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveillance reports have stated that Legionella is the single most commonly reported pathogen associated with drinking water outbreaks in the U.S. Voluntarily reported cases of Legionellosis tripled to 3,522 annually from 2000 to 2009. The CDC estimates that the incidence is likely a multiple of that figure and that as many as 18,000 people are hospitalized annually with the disease. Clinical research finds that 70 percent of all water systems in buildings with at least three stories are contaminated with Legionella.

The Invisible Enemy in Drinking Water

The Invisible Enemy in Your Drinking WaterSediment wreaks havoc on a building’s plumbing system. Damage to piping and equipment can be costly, and sediment creates an environment in which bacteria thrives and bacteria-reducing solutions must work harder. The Municipality is the Main SourceThe main source of sediment in building piping systems does not come from within the building. The main source is from the municipal water supply. Sediment is already in the water prior to entering a building. Because of this it can easily be missed or ignored and this is why we call sediment the invisible enemy. Why is sediment so prevalent?The US plumbing infrastructure is falling apart. It is old and failing. There are over 240,000 water main breaks per year and some of the piping is as old as from the 1800s.• Cast iron pipes from the late 1800s• Pipes laid in 1920s• Post-World War II pipes The Domino EffectThe trip water takes from the municipality to the building starts a domino effect. The municipality typically injects chlorine or another chemical disinfectant into the water system. Chlorine is shown to cause corrosion and as the water travels to the facility three activities take place:• Sediment accumulates• pH…

ASHRAE 12-2020 Guideline

The new Guideline 12 version takes a much closer look at how to manage the risk of Legionellosis. The challenge has changed from minimizing Legionellosis to managing Legionellosis. From minimizing to stopping cases. It is important to note that the new standard implies that it isn’t necessarily a negative thing to get a test showing positivity. This should help the “head in the sand” syndrome that many in the industry still abide by. The “if I don’t know I have a problem then I don’t have a problem”. We all know that we should be proactive in stopping cases of Legionellosis. The only way we know if we are doing a good job and if we need to adjust our current strategy is to test. The new Guideline 12 “gives us permission” and says, “this is okay”. Overall, the new version is written to be more easily adopted into code. However, this doesn’t mean it will be. It takes several years for new code to be adopted by various governing bodies. The guideline much more detail on disinfection methods and the numerous risk factors within the plumbing system that effects the efficacy of your plan to minimize Legionellosis. It takes…

Legionnaires’ Disease Cases Soar Again, Set New Record

By Brett Walton, Circle of Blue Original article found here. America’s deadliest waterborne disease is becoming more pronounced. The number of reported cases of legionellosis, an umbrella term for two illnesses caused by Legionella bacteria, climbed by 33 percent last year, to 9,933 cases, according to data released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of reported cases in 2017 was 7,458. The milder of the two ailments caused by the bacteria is Pontiac fever, which is akin to the flu. The vast majority of the cases, however, are Legionnaires’ disease, a severe respiratory illness that resembles pneumonia and kills about one in 11 people it infects. The illnesses, which are not contagious, are spread by inhaling mist contaminated with the bacteria. Rooftop cooling towers, hot tubs, showers, and ornamental fountains are among the sources of water vapor linked to disease transmission. Just over half of the cases occurred in only eight states in the mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes, regions that have the highest rates of infection in the country. Those states are Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Ohio reported twice the number of cases as California (930 to 453), even…

As Legionnaires’ Disease Cases Surge, Lawsuits Pile Up

By Brett Walton, Circle of Blue Original article found here. Elliot Olsen has been litigating Legionnaires’ disease cases for a dozen years and he’s never been as busy as today. “I’ve got more lawsuits going now than I ever have,” said Olsen, a lawyer with Siegel Brill, a firm based in Minneapolis. Olsen, who represents people nationwide sickened with the pneumonia-like illness, said that Legionnaires’ cases account for about one-third of his current work load. There is plenty of work to go around. The number of people who fall ill with Legionnaires’ disease in the United States is soaring, up 33 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, according to data released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease, which is not contagious, is caused by inhaling water droplets that are contaminated with Legionella bacteria. It frequently sends people to the hospital, and it kills about one in 11 people infected. In tandem with the rising disease burden is a corresponding increase in the number of lawsuits, according to lawyers involved in these cases. Most legal actions are civil lawsuits against building owners or their maintenance contractors for negligence or failure to protect guests on their…


America’s newest water safety challenge is something you have never heard of

The United States has some of the safest drinking water in the world. But its water supply is facing a new challenge — a slimy growth inside pipes that is encouraging outbreaks of illness responsible for over 7 million illnesses and 6,000 deaths every year. That’s the disturbing finding of a new analysis of waterborne disease from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was 10 years in the making. “It’s not just about ingestion of water anymore,” said study coauthor Vince Hill, chief of the CDC’s waterborne disease prevention branch. “We captured a more modern picture of what waterborne disease looks like in the United States today.” Biofilm, a glue-like mixture of bacteria, fungi, amoebas and other microorganisms, is taking up residence inside some of the 6 million miles of plumbing that support drinking, sanitation, hygiene, cooling and heating systems in US buildings, according to the report published Wednesday in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. “If you’ve ever felt that slimy film on your teeth when you haven’t brushed in a while, that’s a biofilm,” said lead author Sarah Collier, an analytic epidemiologist at the CDC. “Biofilms tend to form anywhere there’s microbes and water.” Robust biofilms can provide…

Ready to Reopen Your Building? Consider this Water Filtration System

When buildings are vacant or operating at reduced capacity for long periods of time, the water that would flow normally is left sitting stagnant in the pipes. Disease-causing microorganisms, like legionella that causes Legionnaires’ disease, can begin to grow. If using oxidizing disinfectants such as chlorine and chloramines, these disinfectants will tend to dissipate. As we approach reactivating the economy and bringing buildings back online, some of the risks associated are not only about the growth in the distribution system but also any particulate and changes in the distribution system. This would lead to an increase in sediment, corrosion, particulate and biomass coming in through the mains, all of which can cause bacterial amplification and thus potentially lead to waterborne pathogen outbreaks. Stagnant Water = Increases in Sediment Discoloration As we’re trying to limit the business interruption to bring these buildings back online, we’re already seeing increases in brown water events, wholescale discoloration events and increases in the amount of microbiological activity coming into the distribution system because sediment and particulate are food and housing for bacteria. In sediment removal and corrosion, particulate material removal from the incoming water is a significant issue that these particulates lend themselves to the…

It may not be safe to return to the office—but not for the reason you think

An unintended hazard lies in wait for tenants of shuttered buildings poised to reopen in coming weeks: potentially harmful microbes in stagnant water systems. A unique and unintended health hazard lies in wait for tenants of shuttered commercial buildings poised to reopen in the coming weeks: potentially harmful microbes in stagnant water systems.  Because of stay-at-home orders, building water systems and the municipal supply lines that feed them have experienced dramatically reduced flow, even total stagnation, as the offices, hotels, retail stores and other public spaces they service have been left vacant for months. Public health officials and plumbing experts know this is a recipe for dangerous, perhaps deadly bacterial amplification such as Legionella pneumophila, the microbe that causes Legionnaires’ disease. An almost annual outbreak already infects pockets of New York city’s cooling towers during summer months. This year, with millions of square feet of normally busy commercial space idle, creating the perfect breeding ground for waterborne microbes, the threat is exponentially worse. Building owners and managers must take the issue seriously. The science behind the phenomenon is well documented. Water systems in New York and other big cities, including Chicago, were designed for increasing volumes based on projected population growth trends. Drinking water disinfectants, such as chlorine, depend on system-design calculated flows, which include a short time to consumption in order to be effective. A near-overnight shutdown of water flow in large buildings has increased “water age,” allowing chlorine and chloramine disinfectant levels to dissipate, thus causing a systemic failure of a building’s entire water network. Even if individual owners attempt to do the right thing by flushing systems, there is no…

COVID-19 Water Preparedness

Don’t let one crisis lead to another: what is your COVID-19 Water Preparedness Strategy?

The ongoing pandemic with COVID-19, caused by coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), has caused an initial shock for many businesses. Building occupancy for hospitality and office spaces is plummeting as society is forced to face the difficult, but essential need for social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19. Now that the initial shock is over, however, building owners need to think ahead and create a crisis-management system.  A very important element of this crisis-management system needs to take into account what COVID-19 means to building water health and the potential unintended consequences this crisis has created by shutting down entire floors, wings, etc. and having water systems be underutilized. While it is not easy to raise another alarm, it is necessary to understand the situation can unintentionally, yet exponentially, increase the risk for Legionella amplification, not to mention other waterborne pathogens.  When facilities become unoccupied, their plumbing water systems become unused. These under-utilized and stagnate water systems are prone to incubate and harbor Legionella (and other waterborne pathogens) as disinfectants like chlorine and chloramines break down and fail to provide persistent disinfection. Here are some items for your consideration: Have you attempted to isolate parts of your building into occupied areas and non-occupied areas? If…

Hospitality - Water Treatment

New Opportunities for Hospitality – and the U.S.

“We sometimes underestimate the influence of the little things.” – Charles W. Chesnutt It is incredible to think that something as small as a virus has shut down much of the world economy, particularly the free movement of people for business or recreation. Reading through industry news, most events through April/May have been cancelled and along with  business trips. Additionally, in an effort to be cautious and to #flattenthecurve, many hotels have decided to temporarily suspend operations. The result is that many hotels will be sitting vacant for at least the next month. This unfortunately leads to numerous unintended consequences, most notably that chemical disinfectant (e.g. chlorines and chloramines) will dissolve into the water and waterborne pathogens, like legionella, will flourish. Humans being, as innovative as we are, are already working on solutions – mostly in the realm of enhancing water management program (WMP) activities such as flushing and monitoring. While these are certainly good activities, I’d like to challenge us all to reevaluate our model – specifically the focus on chlorine and chloramines, which I will name the “Chlorine Model”. Chlorine, Chloramines, DBPs, WMPs, and Flushing To start, let’s ask this question: Why do so many WMP’s focus so much on…

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