Legionella is one of the many waterborne pathogens that can thrive in both natural and man-made water systems. However, while its presence in streams, ponds, and lakes rarely cause illness, its proliferation in sizable, complex plumbing systems where adequate temperature encourages its growth presents a potential human health risk. Garratt-Callahan (G-C) has detected Legionella in several areas of commercial and industrial water systems, e.g. sinks, showers, tubs, fountains, hot water tanks, boiler systems, and cooling towers.
Keeping Your Water Systems Safer
To protect the health and safety of everyone in your industrial or commercial buildings, designing and implementing multi-layered water treatment and protection systems is paramount to guard against infections by Legionella and other waterborne pathogens. This multi-pronged approach includes the following components:
- Comprehensive Legionella risk assessment,
- Tailored risk management plan,
- Scheduled water quality testing,
- Secondary disinfection, and
- Preventive installation of nano-filtration units.
These precautionary steps hinder the spread of Legionella and other harmful waterborne pathogens, while allowing you to detect and resolve potential contamination events beforethey could impact human health.
The Problem: Legionella in Water
The presence of Legionella in man-made water systems (e.g. large plumbing installations in buildings where people live and work), can lead to people becoming infected through inhalation of aerosolized and contaminated water droplets from showerheads, faucets, spas, tubs, sinks, fountains, etc.
How Does Legionella Grow?
Legionella and other waterborne pathogens grow in water systems in which conditions are favorable for biofilm development, such as:
- Stagnant water,
- Mineral scale buildup,
- Moderate water temperatures (between 68°F and 122°F), and
- Mild pH (between 5.0 and 8.5).
These conditions also spur the growth of amoebae, algae, protozoa, and other organisms that feed legionella and other waterborne pathogens.
Why is Legionella Dangerous?
Legionella causes a potentially fatal pneumonia-like lung infection called Legionnaires’ disease. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, muscle aches, headaches, fever, and occasionally nausea and diarrhea. It can lead to death when affecting immuno-deficient individuals, as found in healthcare settings (hospitals, nursing homes, maternity clinics). In these cases, about 1 in 4 patients die from Legionnaires’ disease.
How Does It Impact Your Business
The proliferation of Legionella and other pathogens in your water systems can directly or indirectly affect your equipment, your people (staff and customers), and your bottom line:
- The same conditions leading to dangerous biofilm buildup in commercial plumbing can cause damage to water equipment, which may be costly to repair or replace. Scale buildup is especially harmful to sensitive equipment and reduces its lifespan considerably.
- Healthcare costs and absenteeism from preventable waterborne illnesses can cost millions of dollars annually.
- Losses from potential heartbreaking deaths (and associated litigation risk) are impossible to quantify.
This is why having a water safety plan is essential for every business with boilers and cooling systems. A well-thought-out and consistently-implemented water treatment plan saves millions of dollars in healthcare costs and equipment maintenance, repair, and replacement. More importantly, it can save lives.
Where to Begin?
Contact Garratt-Callahan to create a comprehensive water safety plan tailored to your boiler or cooling tower systems. With over a century of expertise, industry certifications, and exceptional customer service, we will help you formulate a water safety plan including a full risk assessment through onsite testing, for Legionella and other pathogens, as needed. Monitoring plans depend on the normal operation and age of your plumbing systems, with increased testing frequency if:
- Pipes are corroded,
- Water pressure varies, or
- Tests come back positive for Legionella or any other waterborne pathogen contamination.
Our in-house analytical testing laboratory provides you with all the testing and analyses needed to assess and monitor your industrial water and equipment. Our lab maintains a State of California ELAP certification, and operates in accordance with state regulations and federal EPA standards.
Garratt-Callahan Approach to Legionella Risk Management
Garratt-Callahan’s Legionella risk management solution is based on your needs for customized water treatment, and features:
- A Legionella risk assessment with thorough equipment inspections and onsite testing with ISO-certified enumeration methods.
- A comprehensive water safety plan, tailored to your system’s testing results, including:
a. regular maintenance check-ins,
b. ongoing testing, and
c. expert training for your staff.
- The assurance of regulatory compliance and the best protection possible for everyone in contact with your water, thanks to our certifications and 100+ years of expertise in industrial water treatment.
Waterborne Pathogens & Water Treatment Applications
A multi-pronged water treatment approach is crucial to protecting the health and safety of the people in your buildings and the long-term operation of your water systems. This is why, along with its risk management approach, G-C water treatment plans involve:
- Comprehensive onsite testing,
- Secondary disinfection, and
- In-line point-of-delivery nanofiltration.
Adopting multi-barrier treatment plans reduces the risks of contamination from Legionella and other waterborne pathogens in the following industries:
Garratt-Callahan started with servicing the boilers that powered steam-locomotives of the Industrial Revolution. Our expertise in industrial water treatment service continues today for all types of industries and facilities. Our water treatment expertise — demonstrated through on-site consulting, chemical applications, equipment maintenance, and customer service — is more than just 100+ years old. Our client relationships are built on fairness, honesty, and integrity. By thoroughly understanding your needs and challenges, we can roll up our sleeves to find sustainable solutions that work.
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Legionella & Waterborne Pathogens FAQ
- Is Legionella testing a legal requirement?
Not at the federal level. The EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act establishes guidelines for maximum contaminant load for Legionella, which are not enforceable. The ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) 188 Standard, however, is commonly considered the industry standard for facilities where water treatment and water management is a concern. This standard has also been used as a template to propose and enact legislation for the monitoring and testing of Legionella in US states. As of April 14, 2022, four states and one city have adopted Legionella-related legislation, while five additional states have similar proposals.
- What is the law regarding Legionella?
Since testing for Legionella is not federally mandated, each state, city, and county health department sets its water quality guidelines for Legionella monitoring and prevention. Nine states and one city either have proposed or adopted Legionella-related legislation as of April 14, 2022.
- Can I conduct my own Legionella risk assessment?
While many Legionella tests are commercially available, they may lack the necessary accuracy or fail to follow accepted standards, and not include the breadth of parameters necessary for an efficient water safety plan that significantly reduces the risk associated with Legionella and other waterborne pathogens. This is why working with a certified water treatment team is important to get the most accurate risk assessment and create a proactive industrial water treatment plan.