As COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted and businesses and workplaces are preparing to reopen, a non-virus health risk caused by the lockdowns may surface — there are concerns that dangerous microbes may be residing in closed buildings’ stagnant water systems.
The systems in many commercial buildings rely on regular use and the flow of water to keep supplies clean and free of disease-causing bacteria. Due to coronavirus-related shutdowns nationwide, the water systems of many buildings have not been in use. Stagnant water supplies can become ideal conditions for dangerous bacteria to proliferate and potentially lead to waterborne illnesses such as Legionnaires' disease, stated a report on the issue from Crain’s Chicago Business. The article explains, “Water systems in New York and other big cities, including Chicago, were designed for increasing volumes based on projected population growth trends. Drinking water disinfectants, such as chlorine, depend on system-design calculated flows, which include a short time to consumption in order to be effective.”
Many water systems in commercial buildings contain harmful strains of bacteria under typical conditions, and rely on the regular flow of water to clean and decontaminate supplies. Without regular use, even periodic flushing can become ineffective at preventing the growth of hazardous bacteria. For this reason, the months without use amidst pandemic-related closings could negatively impact water systems nationwide. Correcting the issue will require the input of engineers, building managers, and other experts who are committed to addressing the problem.
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