About 2 months ago, this page discussed some methods for reducing the risk of Legionnaires’ disease. That post, while informative, often felt a little wonky and clearly focused heavily upon the monitoring of the water system. While clearly designing an effective water system plan with monitoring is vital, this post intends to examine some more practical prevention methods for Legionella bacteria and the contraction of Legionnaires’ disease that can be incorporated in a water system plan.
A good place to start is with the actual temperature of the water. To prevent the development of Legionella bacteria, it is suggested that water temperature be kept either above or below the 68–122 °F range. In addition, preventing the stagnation of the water in your building can also assist the prevention of Legionella bacteria build up. One way to do this would be to remove from any dead end sections from your network of pipes in the building. However when stagnation becomes unavoidable, such as potentially when a wing of a hotel is closed for an off-season, the water systems must then be completely disinfected before any kind of normal operation can resume.
Another aspect to keep in mind which goes hand in hand with the water stagnation piece of advice is to always try and prevent the buildup of biofilm. This can be done by not using or even replacing construction materials which encourage the development of biofilm, or by reducing the number of nutrients that can be used for bacterial growth from entering the system. Regular disinfection of the water system, either by high heat or a chemical biocide, along with the use of chlorination where needed is also clearly vital. Other options for treating water include ultraviolet light and copper-silver ionization, which have shown some evidence of effectiveness as well.
A broader concept to keep in mind is that whenever one may be doing a renovation or a system design, try to, from the start, find ways to reduce the production of aerosols or, where that is not an option, try to reduce as much human exposure to them as possible.
Finally, in order for any of these pieces of advice for procedures which should be included in a water system to truly be effective, consideration for communication among staff, training, management responsibilities, record-keeping, and contingency plans are needed. Often, the water system plan may be subject to public health regulations and laws so always remember to review those kinds of relevant regulations and laws first.
This kind of discussion can go on much further however as a practical discussion of methods one should include in a water system plan, this post hopes that the reader may walk away with at least a bit more information on their side.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.