Legionella is a type of bacteria that breeds in water. Inhalation of the bacteria can lead to fatal, acute respiratory infections. Symptoms of Legionnaires’ diseases include headache, fever, chills, muscle ache and pains and its onset can be up to 10 days after initial contact with the bacteria.
Should you be worried about it being in your water supply?
Legionella can be fatal particularly for those with suppressed immune systems such as the aged and hospital patients. Most people associate legionella with cooling towers, however, this is a misconception as it can also be contracted through the water supply as in the case at the Wesley Hospital in Queensland.
While there is no specific legislation in WA on how you should manage Legionella risk there is a Code of Practice – Prevention and control of Legionnaires’ disease 2010 – issued by the Department of Commerce. Organisations are also bound by the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 and the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996.
Is your water safe from Legionella?
The short answer is possibly not. The proliferation of Legionella pneumophila in water systems is the result of interrelationships between temperature, environmental micro-organisms and sediments, and the chemical composition of waters.
The proliferation of Legionella is known to be promoted by:
- a wet, warm environment (temperature range of 20 -45°C);
- stagnation or low water turnover;
- high microbial concentration, including algae, amoebae, slime and other bacteria;
- presence of biofilm, scale, sediment, sludge, corrosion products or other organic matter; and degraded plumbing materials, such as rubber fittings, which may provide nutrients to enhance bacterial growth
Potential sources of Legionella in Water
- Warm water regulators in hot water systems are installed to prevent scalding but also stop the water from reaching a temperature that would kill Legionella.
- Any water system that generates water temperature ranges between 20-45°C.
- Tempering and Thermostatic Mixing Valves particularly if they are located on a pipework dead leg which stands idle for any period of time.
- Artesian bores, decorative fountains, fire sprinklers, above ground water storage tanks and hot tubs.
What options are available to mitigate Legionella risk in your water systems?
Step 1: Test your water for Legionella. This is relatively inexpensive. Two water samples can be collected and tested for $300. This will identify if the bacteria is present in your water system.
Step 2: If testing is positive, ACE+ can pasteurise your water systems to kill the bacteria as it cannot survive higher water temperatures of 60 °C +.
Step 3: Establish the root cause of the Legionella by auditing your water systems so that areas of risk can be eliminated e.g. dead legs.
Step 4: Advise on range of products that can reduce the risk of Legionella in care homes and hospitals such as smart flow technology.