Smarti Environmental

Concerns Over Stagnant Water Caused by COVID Closedowns

COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the way we live forever, both in a professional and personal capacity. Building owners and managers have had their hands full in recent times, doing everything they possibly can to keep us all safe.

While the installation of hand sanitizing stations and the adapting of washrooms to make them COVID friendly has been the priority of many facility managers, there may also be concerns about something that wasn’t previously considered – stagnant water.

When buildings have been left dormant, it typically means no water is being used anywhere in the facility. As pipes and drains are designed to carry water consistently, issues can occur when this has been stopped for a period of time, and then suddenly restarted.

What issues can occur?

One of the most concerning issues that may occur is Legionella, which is the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease. These bacteria can be found in droplets that are released from faucets when they are first used after an extended period of inactivity. Fortunately, Legionnaire’s Disease is quite rare here in the UK, but it is not unheard of, and it affects the body’s respiratory system, so those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 may be at risk.

Non-tuberculous mycobacteria can also occur in stagnant water and is often transferred to people with the contaminated water entering an open cut on the skin. This can cause an increase in coughing, which as we are all aware, increases the risk of the spreading of diseases to others who are nearby.

There may also be an increase in the release of sewer gasses, which occur where evaporation has happened in the pipework and the gasses are released as a result. These sewer gasses will contain many types of harmful bacteria which can be damaging to health if inhaled.

What can be done to prevent this risk?

In order to minimise the risk of issues caused by stagnant water, there are some preventative measures that can be taken before facilities are re-opened again, which includes:

  • Before re-opening, maintenance and facility staff, while wearing correct PPE, should check all water-using mechanicals to see if they are operating properly. This will be everything from toilets and faucets to ice machines and water fountains, depending on what kind of facility you have
  • Once this has been established, perform a thorough clean and flush-through of these systems, which will get the stagnant water flowing and remove it from the facility. It is important to remember that your hot and cold water temperatures should achieve the following:
  • Hot water – a minimum of 50 degrees Celsius after one minute, or 55 degrees Celsius in healthcare settings, unless you have thermostatic mixing valves (TMV) installed, in which case water temperatures at the hot tap should not exceed 44 degrees Celsius.
    • Cold water – a maximum of 20 degrees Celsius or below after two minutes.
  • If waterless urinals are installed, we recommend removing the valve with the key provided and flushing a 10ltr bucket of water through the pipe-work, then re-fitting the valve once complete. The system should then be cleaned with the correct cleaning product. For example, we would recommend using SteriKleen to rinse out the pipework, and then dropping a SteriPod into the urinal to help keep the pipes lubricated and smelling fresh – do not use bleach to flush through your waterless urinals!
  • Ensure drainpipes are not releasing sewer odours by flushing them through. Maintenance will often pour water down the drains to flush them out, but you may want to consider adding some SteriKleen to the draining pipes, which will help make this rinse through more than just a “temporary fix”

While much of this will likely be common sense to many building and facility managers, it is important that, now more than ever, everything possible is being done to ensure the safety of all who pass through the building.

If you are looking at ways to improve the safety of your facilities, you may wish to consider the installation of waterless urinals. Not only do they reduce the aerosol bacterial and viral transmission by up to 98%, but they will also help you to save money and reduce your impact on the environment.

So, why not contact us today about making the switch to protect your staff, to save money and to protect the planet?