Recommissioning Water Systems
There is a lot of advice circulating about the recommissioning of water systems following COVID-19. Water Hygiene Services managing Director Ben Baldwin was also quoted in the Yorkshire Evening Post highlighting the importance of following guidelines as unused buildings begin to reopen.
What are the risks of stagnant water systems?
With many UK business premises closed during lockdown, the low usage of mains water can have several implications on the quality of drinking water. Water tank systems may have untouched water sitting stagnant for many weeks. Water left to sit inside systems may have warmed during this period, encouraging microbiological regrowth. The longer water sits within the pipework, the higher chance it has of absorbing plumbing metals. Clearly, this points towards an adverse quality of drinking water, potential health risks and risk of Legionella bacteria forming.
Legionella Control Association Guidance
As per the guidance issued by the Legionella Control Association (LCA) 13th May, 2020, it is essential that when buildings reopen following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, that water systems are not simply put straight back to use. During any period of shutdown, if flushing cannot be carried out weekly or twice weekly, dutyholders should formulate a recommissioning plan. A recommissioning plan ensures the building can reopen with assurance to users that it is safe and free of bacteria (see Recommissioning Building water System diagram (C) Legionella Control Association below).
What to Consider with Your Recommissioning Plan;
- How many buildings need to be recommissioned?
- When is the building due to reopen?
- From this date, you need to work backward to allow enough time for each step to be completed. What are the tasks that you need to complete for the water system(s) to be recommissioned? How long does each step take to complete?
- Task each step to a responsible person. Who is going to be carrying out each step? Can they / you prove that they have received suitable Legionella training and are they competent? If not, can you assist through delivery of the required training to produce this assurance? Water Hygiene Services offer Zoom Legionella Awareness Training. Contact us for more information.
- Do you have a partial reoccupation that will require any additional flushing/monitoring until full occupation?
How to Recommission a Water System
The LCA article provides guidance to owners and managers of premises regarding recommissioning of their water systems following a period of closure. Now that the government is planning their steps to lift the lockdown in a phased manner, it is important that duty holders take necessary steps to make sure that their buildings are safe before they reopen.
The following points have been compiled by referring to various guidance released by Gov.uk, LCA, Public Health England, and the HSE in line with guidance documents including ACoP L8 and HSG 274.
- Recommissioning of a building water system can utilise various levels of intervention, and the level of work and investment should be appropriate for the risk.
- For very simple buildings flushing alone may be sufficient but for most buildings some form of disinfection is likely to be needed.
- In the worst cases, repeat disinfection and extensive cleansing flushing may be required to clear contamination.
- Evaporative cooling systems should already have a robust start-up and shut-down procedures in place, and the expectation is that these must be followed.
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