Legionella Management

New Water Treatment Standards

CDC Vital Signs Fact Sheet for Legionella TreatmentThe Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recently released one of their Vital Signs Reports, focusing this time on Legionella bacterium and its effects on facilities with complex water systems along with Legionella treatment options. Legionella is an organism commonly found in nature, which can occasionally form and spread in water systems. In their report, the CDC focus on the dangers of the Legionella infection, Legionnaires Disease (LD), and how new industry standards set up by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) are affecting healthcare facilities and other buildings with complex water systems wherein Legionella could potentially grow and spread cases of LD.

The report goes over Legionella and its affects, as well as the new ASHRAE Standard 188, which sets up standards for water systems. The main takeaway of the report is that an effective water Legionella treatment program is the best way to eliminate and prevent Legionella from developing in a water system. 

Legionella and Legionnaires Disease

Legionella is a waterborne bacterium which occurs naturally in water under certain conditions.

This bacterium can cause Legionnaires disease, a type of pneumonia that has the potential to be deadly. In their Vital Signs Report, the CDC say that as many as 1 in 4 patients that contract the disease from a healthcare facility die as a result.

Anyone can contract the disease, but those most at risk include people above the age of 50, people with pre-existing respiratory problems, and people with lowered immunity or a chronic illness.

Who’s at Risk?

Legionella can develop in most water systems, but some are more susceptible to spreading it than others. Certain applications that aerosolize water greatly increase the chances of causing Legionnaires Disease. Here’s a list of buildings that may have an increased chance of developing Legionella, according to the CDC:

  • 16 of 21 jurisdictions reported definite cases of health care-associated LD in 2015 triggering the need for Legionella treatment programs

    Healthcare facilities that house patients overnight, or treat patients that have chronic illnesses and lowered immune systems.

  • Healthcare facilities that primarily house patients older than 65.
  • Buildings with multiple housing units and a centralized hot water system (like a hotel or apartment complex).
  • Buildings with a cooling tower.
  • Any building with a device or appliance that can aerosolize water such as a hot tub/spa, a decorative fountain, or any kind of mister, humidifier, air washer or air-atomizer.

And even if none of the above risk-factors apply to your building, it is still suggested that you maintain proper water-management procedures and maintenance.

Legionella Treatment and Management Plan

The most effective way to prevent Legionella is with a water treatment program. In accordance with the new ASHRAE Standard 188, at-risk facilities would be expected to develop a plan to minimize the growth and spread of Legionella within their water system. The standard suggests the following steps be taken to avoid the risk and spread of Legionellosis:

  • Determine what locations in your building are at-risk of developing legionella.
  • Systematically analyze water systems to ensure conditions remain optimal to prevent bacteria growth.
  • Pursue corrective action when any location appears to be compromised.
  • Develop a program to maintain water system at optimal and safe levels.
  • Document and keep records of all procedures.

Please contact FCT Water and we will help you set up a comprehensive water treatment system to to combat Legionella growth in your facility water and develop your comprehensive Legionella treatment plan.

The Bottom Line

The CDC Vital Signs Report and ASHRAE Standard 188 raise a lot of good points about water system maintenance and the dangers of Legionella in complex water systems. Buildings with such systems should develop water treatment protocols and procedures if they haven’t done so already. The only real way to prevent legionella is with effective water treatment. If you believe that your building might be at risk, it is strongly advised that you contact FCT Water to begin drafting your comprehensive water management plan.

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