It seems that reports in the news of legionellosis outbreaks are on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously reported that the number of people diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease increases by nearly four times between 2000 and 2014. Since the beginning of August, local news outlets have reported on possible exposure to Legionella bacteria at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel in New York, several municipal buildings in West Orange, New Jersey, and St. Columbkille Parish church in Ohio, among others.
Legionella is a widely distributed natural inhabitant of water. There are a variety of species of Legionella which thrive in warm waters, ranging from 68°F to 115°F. Why is Legionella a concern in building water systems? This bacterium is the cause of Legionellosis, a respiratory illness that can take on two different forms, known as Pontiac Fever and Legionnaires’ Disease. Pontiac fever is a respiratory illness, without pneumonia, and symptoms are similar to that of the flu. Legionnaires’ Disease symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, headache, tiredness, loss of appetite, loss of coordination, and sometimes diarrhea, vomiting and even death. Exposure occurs when water containing the bacterium is aerosolized and inhaled, rather than through consumption of contaminated water.
Proper monitoring and management of your building water system can help prevent the growth of Legionella or identify a potential problem early on before exposure to the public occurs. Standards for developing an effective Water Management Plan (WMP) are outlined in ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188, Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems. Key elements of a WMP include:
In addition to Standard 188, additional guidance for Legionellosis risk mitigation is available from a variety of sources, including the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Alta Environmental employs a variety of experts who can help you with water system sampling for Legionella, building water system survey and analysis, and preparation of a WMP for your building! Contact Jacqueline McMillen, PE for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org