Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many business closed their facilities. As regions are now reopening, business owners should be thinking about something they may not have had to give a lot of thought to before: the water quality in their buildings.
If your business has experienced low, or no water flow conditions in your building due to a shutdown, you should be exercising caution in re-opening regarding your water.
According to the U.S. EPA, the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water supplies at this time and treatment plants have continued to operate and meet the same water standards as always.
This includes the use of residual disinfectant levels in order to inhibit microbial growth in transit. However, even under normal circumstances, the residual disinfectant typically dissipates in a matter of days or weeks.
Water Quality in Your Building May be Stagnant & Degraded
Since many businesses have closed their facilities for weeks or even months at a time, the quality of water in service lines to commercial buildings and within those buildings may have degraded and become stagnant.
This significantly increases the risk from opportunistic pathogens like Legionella, some Mycobacteria and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Growth of non-pathogenic organisms could also impact the taste or smell of a water supply.
This is of particular concern where water use produces aerosols, such as:
- Showers in gyms, fitness facilities and recreational buildings
- Showers in hotels, motels and B&Bs
- Taps in hair salons, barber shops and restaurants
- Even simple toilet flushing
4 Top Water Tips for Business Owners
1. Understand what actions were taken to bring the building back into service, e.g., flushing, chlorination, etc.
2. Engage a plumber and/or water treatment professional to service/clean the water treatment equipment within your control.
3. Communicate with employees and customers about actions taken.
4. Consider installing a point-of-entry ultraviolet (UV) treatment to minimize risk now and mitigate stagnant water problems in the future.
After the flushing and disinfecting of the plumbing, your business can now create its own “water ecosystem”.
Any subsequent reopenings resulting from COVID-19 or even a boil water advisory will be made simpler and more convenient with your UV system already installed.
Further Things to Keep in Mind for Your Reopening
It takes a concerted effort at every level to prepare businesses from a safe water perspective. Utilities, public health authorities, engineers, building owners, plumbers, water treatment professionals and business owners may all need to be involved.
Key Advantages of UV Disinfection
As mentioned above, installing UV water disinfection system will provide a disinfection barrier to minimize risk now and mitigate future stagnant water problems.
- UV is a chemical-free, environmentally-friendly process, that adds nothing to the water and will not change taste or odor of the water.
- Requires no transportation, storage or handling of toxic or corrosive chemicals.
- Highly effective at inactivating a broad range of microorganisms – including chlorine-resistant pathogens like Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
Tips for Building Owners
- Contact your government environmental public health departments for advice about building water safety
- Work with qualified professionals to bring all building services, including water and sewer, back online
- Communicate information provided by the health department to your building occupants
Tips for Water Treatment Professionals
- Try to engage building owners before water services are brought back online
- Protect water treatment equipment from further contamination during service line and plumbing flushes
- Perform proper flushing, cleaning, sanitizing and servicing of water treatment systems
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Further Resources and References
¹ Building Owner Resources
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Information on Maintaining or Restoring Water Quality in Buildings with Low or No Use
- Purdue Engineering, FAQs on Building Water Safety in Response to COVID-19
² Water Treatment Professional Resources
- Water Quality Association (WQA), General Guidance for Water Treatment Professionals on Proper Maintenance of Treatment Systems as Shelter-in-Place Orders are Lifted [pdf: 1,357 KB]
³ Business Owner Resources
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes
- Pacific Water Institute, Water and the Pandemic: Reopening Buildings After Shutdowns: Reducing Water-Related Health Risks