The Physical Plant Department (PPD) at the University of New Mexico works to create a safe and beautiful space for students, employees, and visitors of the campus. About two years ago, PPD decided to integrate a Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP) based water safety program. This program would include testing, remediation, monitoring, and maintenance of the potable water system (i.e. bathroom sinks, drinking fountains) as well as water features and cooling towers.
The PPD recognized the potential dangers of waterborne pathogens often present in large water systems.
“Reducing the risk to our campus community is worth the expense of developing this water safety program at UNM,” said Dr. Gary Smith, associate director of PPD Environmental Services.
The UNM campus is considered a “large water system” by the New Mexico Environment Department and pumps approximately one million gallons of water from its wells each day.
Many pathogens can exist in a large water system such as UNM including Legionella bacteria, Giarda, Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Aspergillus, and others.
According to Dr. Smith, “UNM takes the stand that it’s important to apply principals that are documented to prevent public illness from water systems. We want people to feel safe while visiting our campus, and it’s important to lead the way and show we take our responsibility as facility maintenance managers seriously.”
The PPD preventative maintenance program includes daily, weekly, or monthly flushing of various water sources.
According to Dr. Eleana Zamora, assistant professor at the UNM School of Medicine, and vice chief of staff at the Sandoval Regional Medical Center, individuals in New Mexico are less likely to contract Legionnaires’ disease due to the dry climate. “We have a really dry environment, it’s not humid, so it doesn’t tend to be as much in the environment as in other places like back east.”
UNM does treat some cases of Legionnaires’ disease each year, however. In 2014, there was a total of eight cases reported to the New Mexico Department of Health. For comparison, the health department in Michigan reported 236 cases in the same year.
UNM is one of the few universities in the US that has decided to implement a HACCP-based water safety program.
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