Facilities and Engineering
Consistent, high quality water is invaluable to an industrial or manufacturing facility’s structure and processes.
A proactive approach to water management
Legionella can be easily transmitted through water supply systems that serve your facility and are an integral part of your day-to-day business processes. An outbreak could disrupt not only your facility’s processes and increase costs exponentially, but also put your employees’ lives in danger. Industrial and manufacturing facility managers must protect their employees, visitors, and neighbors from the threat of a Legionella or waterborne outbreak.
How do I identify the risks of Legionella in my facility?
There are three key variables to consider in answering this question:
1. What is the likelihood of my plumbing system growing Legionella?
2. What is the likelihood of Legionella coming in contact with a person?
3. How do I make sure I’m looking in the right place to detect that risk?
When searching for solutions to mitigate risk, you want to make sure you’re allocating resources to the highest offenders to be efficient with your time and resources. Drinking water is not only the greatest origin of risk, but also the source most likely to come into contact with your facility occupants.
Approximately 70% of all U.S. building water systems contain Legionella
We know for certain that Legionella is an opportunistic waterborne pathogen that most commonly enters the facility from the municipal water. Research shows that approximately 70% of all U.S. building water systems contain Legionella. These pathogens are naturally occurring, but factors like dead legs, incoming water quality, low water flow areas, warm water, and biofilm (which you may know as “green sludge”) greatly increase the risk of Legionella and other bacteria by providing optimal breeding grounds.
A common misconception is that new facilities are safe from the threat of Legionella. Legionella does not discriminate between old and new facilities, and if it happens that a new facility’s source water brings in a stream of bacteria that goes unchecked, it will persist unless corrective measures are taken.
Although it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint the probability of your plumbing acquiring Legionella or other waterborne pathogens without professional assessment, it’s still important to evaluate some contributing factors in your facility to get a clearer picture of your risk. The best place to start is by examining your water quality. This means examining factors like pH, sediment, disinfection residual, and hardness.
Even if you establish control measures for the water quality distributed throughout your system, the quality of the incoming water may have already impacted your plumbing environment by creating pockets of ideal bacterial breeding grounds called biofilm.
What is Biofilm?
Even if you’re not familiar with the scientific definition, you likely encounter biofilm on a daily basis. The plaque on your teeth is biofilm, as is the “gunk” that clogs your drains.
Biofilm forms when bacteria adhere to surfaces in moist environments; if you can find a combination of moisture and nutrients on a surface, you’re likely to find biofilm. Naturally occurring biofilms almost always consist of mixtures of multiple species of bacteria, as well as fungi, algae, yeasts, protozoa, and other microorganisms.
Another major contributor to the risk of your facility growing Legionella is dead legs, regions of your plumbing where water may stay stagnant for extended periods of time. These areas are ideal for bacterial proliferation because measures like flushing and hyperchlorination may not reach that water, and the bacteria has ideal conditions to grow and spread elsewhere. This is especially dangerous at warm temperatures, which are ideal for the amplification of bacteria.
What waterborne pathogens do I need to minimize?
The CMS mandate to address Legionella risk, released June 2017, broadly stated that the minimum expectation for facilities is to conduct a risk assessment to identify and minimize Legionella and other opportunistic waterborne pathogens such as Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Burkholderia, Stenotrophomonas, nontuberculous mycobacteria, and fungi. This is a great starting point, as you should be working to address as many harmful pathogens as possible with your approach to reduce risk and liability.
Because of Legionella’s infamy for its connection with the widely broadcasted Legionnaires’ disease, it often is the focal point of risk mitigation planning and rightly so. The LiquiTech multi-barrier approach is designed to address the greatest number of waterborne pathogens, from cysts and amoebas to bacteria and viruses. Most waterborne bacteria have similar thresholds for tolerance of different mitigation technologies, and can be wiped out using a range of products, which is the thought process behind our approach. The short answer to the larger question is that if you address the biggest offenders correctly, you will be getting rid of most of your problem.
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