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Reduce Legionella Bacteria After COVID-19 Shutdown


During the reopening phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, club owners and operators must also contend with increased risk for the presence of Legionella bacteria that is known to cause Legionnaires’ disease. Legionella grows in warm, stagnant water and may be present in water systems shut down due to COVID-19.

Swimming pools, water fountains, hot tubs and other large plumbing systems that haven’t been used for several weeks are all fertile Legionella breeding grounds and may cause its spread when restarting operations.

A reduction in disinfectant levels in your building’s water systems can lead to Legionella growth. In some clubs, processes such as heating, storing and filtering reduce the amount of available disinfectant, allowing Legionella to grow if steps are not taken to stop it. Your club’s water supply may need additional long-term supplemental disinfectants — such as chlorine, monochloramine, chlorine dioxide, ultraviolet light and ozone — to limit Legionella growth.

It is recommended to flush out water systems that have been shut off for some time. Follow these step-by-step instructions to help ensure any stagnant water in the pipes is flushed out and replaced with fresh water:

  1. Make sure all faucets in the building flow to a drain. If there are any water filters in the facility, remove or bypass them.
  2. Remove aerators and screens from every faucet.
  3. Start with the cold water and turn on all faucets. Allow them to run during the whole flushing process.
  4. Start on the lowest floor of the facility, turn on all faucets, then move to the next highest floor and continue until all faucets are turned on.
  5. At the end of this process, water should be flowing from all faucets in the building at the same time.
  6. Let water run until it is clear and the temperature stops changing at the last faucet turned on. If you do not have a thermometer, flush for at least 30 minutes. Larger clubs may need to flush for a longer time.
  7. Turn off the water starting on the lowest floor with the first faucet you turned on and continue turning off the faucets in the same order they were turned on.
  8. Repeat this process using the hot water faucets.
  9. Clean and then reattach aerators to the faucets.
  10. Flush, or run a cycle of, any appliance that uses water — such as an ice maker, dishwasher, coffee maker or washing machine — for 10 minutes each.
  11. Replace any filters and return equipment to service, if applicable.

Developing a water management program can greatly reduce Legionella growth and spread in your facility. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for helpful resources, including a guide that describes Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease, how and where the bacteria grows, its harmful effects, and how to minimize and prevent its growth in water systems. Your state’s health department is another excellent resource.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.

Jayson Scott has 16 years of experience as a commercial lines underwriter at The Cincinnati Insurance Company. Since 2014, he has supported Cincinnati’s growing Fitness, Sports & Recreation program, initially as the program’s dedicated specialist and now as national program director. For more information, contact Jay, Jayson_Scott@cinfin.com or 513.603.5885. Please visit cinfin.com/fitness-sports for more information.


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