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Legionella warning for businesses

Published: Tuesday, 5th May 2020

Pendle Council has outlined steps businesses can take to prevent potentially-deadly legionella bacteria from getting into their water systems.

Measures to control the spread of coronavirus have resulted in local businesses being closed or partly closed.

This means that many hot and cold water systems will not be running, increasing the chances of bacteria forming which can cause Legionnaires’ disease - a potentially fatal type of pneumonia.

Michael Duck, Commercial Team Leader in Environmental Health, explained: “Hot water systems should maintain water temperatures of at least 60ºC in storage cylinders and above 50ºC through the distribution system. Cold water should be below 20ºC. 

“Legionella bacteria, commonly found in water, will multiply when the water temperature is between 20–45ºC.”                                                                                                                            

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by inhaling droplets of contaminated water from things like air-conditioning, showers, water sprays, whirlpool or hydrotherapy baths.

Councillor Mohammed Iqbal, Leader of Pendle Council, said: “The risk of infection is much greater when businesses close for a number of weeks.

“It’s essential that additional controls are put into place before any water systems are used again.”

Preventative steps should be implemented during closure.

  • Hot water systems should maintain water temperatures of at least 60ºC in storage cylinders and above 50ºC through the distribution system
  • Cold water should be below 20ºC
  • Make sure that water systems are flushed through at least weekly. More frequent flushing may be needed for some systems
  • Flush all of the system outlets – it’s not good enough to just flush one or two outlets on a large system
  • Reduce the water levels in bulk tanks so there is less standing water
  • Keep records of how you’re preventing legionella during closure
  • If evaporative cooling systems are in use, these must be maintained as usual or switched off safely
  • Where water systems have control measures built into the system, these should be maintained and kept working (if feasible) during the closure period

Michael added: “At some point, the lockdown controls will be lifted and there will be pressure to quickly return to normal operations.

“Businesses should put a plan into place to address the risks relating to a return to normal operations.

“Where water systems have been unused for a prolonged period, advice should be taken from a competent heating/ventilation engineer about pre-start checks and maintenance.

“A system service, including cleaning and disinfection, may be appropriate before complex systems are brought back into use.

“Even simple systems such as spray taps and showers may need to be cleaned and disinfected before being used again.

“If you’re not sure about the steps that need to be taken in relation to your businesses then please seek competent advice.”

More information and links to advice is on Pendle Council’s website