Covid 19 & The Management of Water Systems
The Country is in Lockdown, self-isolation is paramount to the fight against the Covid 19 virus, all non-essential businesses are closed, with no foreseeable date of reopening, universities, colleges, schools and nurseries, pupil free. Hotels, hostels, shopping centres and gym’s all remain empty as do most office buildings throughout the UK, it is during these uncertain times that it is unclear as to what takes priority and what is expected with regards to the management of the water systems, hopefully the next few paragraphs will assist you in answering some questions you may be facing.
The legal responsibility for legionella control lies with the Dutyholder, the Health and Safety at Work Act still applies and Dutyholders must be taking reasonably practicable steps to control risk from legionella throughout this time. Dutyholders implicated in an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease resulting from actions taken for COVID-19 precautions are not likely to have any exemption from prosecution.
What actions are critical? what can be deferred for a few weeks? and what can be deferred for a few months? At UK Legionella Water Services, we can provide advice to assist with compliance, but it is down to each Dutyholder to determine what actions they will take.
We offer below guidance that should be considered and implemented where required when making decisions on what to do to control the legionella bacteria and other dangerous water pathogens during the COVID-19 outbreak:
Hot and cold water systems in buildings that are empty or with minimal occupancy should consider the implications of water stagnation, the initial water systems would have been designed to provide adequate safe water to a fully occupied building, if the building is only in partial use, additional measures should be implemented to ensure optimal water quality for the remaining occupants.
- Implement a more frequent flushing regime of all unused or seldom used areas, once a week flushing may not be adequate to remove stagnated water (it is not recommended that water systems are drained down)
- If possible, drop stored water levels in cold water storage tanks to accommodate the usage, this can be determined by carrying out a drop test.
- Where practicable turn off the heat source to all large hot water storage vessels and use low risk point of use water heaters
- Monitor water temperatures more frequently to ensure thermal gain or loss within stored water is controlled
- Where alternative control measures are in place such as biocide dosing, consider temporarily increasing levels of potable water treatment, this may not be an option for partially occupied buildings
- Where it is determined that implemented controls such as temperature monitoring or biocide dosing are not being consistently achieved, microbiological monitoring for the Legionella bacteria should be carried out
- Implement a recommissioning plan for the water systems
Life after Covid 19: Recommissioning Water Systems
So, the lockdown is over, the restrictions have been lifted and it is now a realisation that there is nothing more reassuring than normality.
There are more questions to be answered… What do I do now? How can I ensure my water systems are safe?
Following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions it is essential that the appropriate precautions are taken and that water systems are not just put back into use straight away.
It is the responsibility of the Dutyholder to ensure the water services are safe prior to allowing any building to be occupied. It is anticipated that the risk present within water systems in this situation would be greater than normally and reasonable and practicable measures should be considered. It is imperative that an adequate Legionella Risk Assessment is in place. Initially we are looking at water hygiene with a progression to Legionella control, with this in mind the below guidance has been provided
- The minimum expectation for small, simple hot and cold water systems would be flushing through with fresh mains water.
- For Larger buildings with storage tanks, showers, calorifiers and more complex pipework the expectation is likely to be for more extensive flushing followed by cleaning and disinfection
- In all cases where systems are being recommissioned it is sensible to have evidence to prove and reassure that the recommissioning process has been effective, microbiological Sampling for Legionella and TVC to BS7592 should be considered for recommissioning plans to validate the effectiveness of the process. Additional follow up samples may be considered until normal control measures are in place.
Where buildings have been unoccupied for some time and during warmer weather, it is likely that some increase in bacteria levels and biofilm will occur. These water systems may require more than a single disinfection to be successful. Be prepared for the need to repeat some disinfections to achieve success.
Once the restrictions for the Covid 19 outbreak have been lifted there will be an increased industry demand for water management, clean & disinfection, water sampling and other system recommissioning work, it is recommended that during this period of isolation a plan be implemented to ensure your return to normality is considered to prevent any further disruption.
If you need any further advice or have questions that have not been answered please email our office at firstname.lastname@example.org we are here to help…