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 water systems cannot be properly isolated, contaminated water from the unoccupied areas can spread to the occupied areas causing sickness;
- Have you vacated the facility and left the water system intact? In this scenario the entire building can become contaminated with bacteria;
- Have you attempted to drain down the entire water system? Unfortunately, it is likely that there is still standing water due to “pockets in the piping system. In these locations bacteria will flourish as well and can contaminate the entire facility later.
Saying “yes” to any of the above questions now could result in a waterborne pathogen outbreak down the road. One crisis has thus led, unintentionally, to other consequences.
With changes occurring to your water system, your COVID-19 Water Preparedness Strategy should be created, acted on, and potentially adjusted accordingly. To truly manage the COVID-19 challenge, updating the flushing and testing criteria of a COVID-19 Water Preparedness Strategy needs to be an integral part of a crisis-management system. For building owners, it is key to have a partner that understands the requirements of discovery, the experience to make good decisions, a holistic solution design, and a history of results to making sure that the built environment is not further adversely affected.
LiquiTech has been helping our commercial clients understand the magnification of Legionella risk this COVID-19 occupancy calamity presents, to ensure that one crisis doesn’t create another. We can’t overstate how important it is to have a COVID-19 Water Preparedness Strategy to recommission unoccupied areas when the crisis ends, employees are back in the office, hotel guests are back in their rooms, and business returns to normal, which it will. We share your pain in these challenging times, and it’s our job to help avert catastrophic unintended consequences that would be a direct result of this crisis. We are here to help and advise.
Don’t let one crisis lead to another. Please reach out to us at LiquiTech, and we would be happy to discuss further and produce a strategy tailor-made for your facility. With over 30 years of experience in mitigating water-related risks, we’ll make sure that you have one less thing to worry about now and in the future.