Not If, But When: 3 Reasons Most U.S. Buildings Are Prone to Waterborne Pathogen and Legionella Growth

If you manage a U.S. building or facility and you don’t have a recently updated water management program, it’s not so much as a question of if your facility will have waterborne pathogens or Legionella in your water, but when. There are three reasons for this:

  1. Historical plumbing designs
  2. The age of most buildings in the U.S.
  3. The natural presence of waterborne pathogens

Historical Plumbing Designs Can Promote Waterborne Pathogen and Legionella Growth

While well-intentioned, earlier plumbing designs did not consider Legionella and other waterborne pathogens because they were unaware of their presence and dangers. As a result, many older plumbing systems include

  • Dead legs with stagnant water that let bacteria grow easily
  • Large hot water and cold water storage tanks with inadequate turnover of water that allow bacteria and biofilm to form
  • Oversized pipe diameters that result in slow flow rates that allow bacteria and biofilm to grow
  • A lack of hot water return loops that lets hot water cool to temperatures that are ideal for pathogen growth

The Age of Most U.S. Buildings Makes Them Prone to Waterborne Pathogen and Legionella Growth

Without a complete retrofit of older buildings’ plumbing systems, there is little that can be done structurally to avoid these age-related risk factors:

  • Natural corrosion of older pipes that promotes the development of biofilm in which bacteria thrive
  • Oxidation of metal pipes that also promotes the development of biofilm
  • Build-up of scale in plumbing, water heaters and other equipment that promotes biofilm growth

The Natural Presence of Waterborne Pathogen and Legionella Growth Makes It Nearly Impossible to Avoid Initial Exposure

Given that Legionella and many other waterborne pathogens are naturally occurring, this results in:

  • The near impossibility of avoiding exposure at some point to these pathogens
  • Possible resistance to standard municipal water treatment over time
  • Likely growth in every facility

What Should You Do?

Given the above, it is important that all facility managers realize:

  • Over time there is no way to avoid the exposure to Legionella bacteria or other waterborne pathogens, particularly in older facilities, if left untreated
  • The situation is exacerbated in facilities that serve older or immunocompromised patients or residents but is ultimately true for all facilities (it is unlikely that any facility restricts visitors to only those who are young and have no underlying conditions)
  • The only practical solution is to have a recently reviewed and effective water management program in place that includes regular testing and proactive control measures

How Can We Help?

As a truly independent Legionella and waterborne pathogen control consultant, Legionella Control Systems Company can help you identify the most cost-effective and suitable water management program. Contact us today for a review of your existing water management program or to establish your first water management program and proactive control process. Also take advantage of free water testing from Legionella Control Systems for basic water characteristics including ORP.

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