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Legionella Risk Management | ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188-2015

By Dez Duran-Lamanilao

Legionella is a type of bacterium that is usually found in freshwater environments but can pose a threat to an individual’s health when it spreads out in showers and faucets, hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks and heaters, and multi-unit residential and industrial plumbing systems. Legionellosis refers to two specific illnesses. When people accidentally breathe in even small droplets of water that contain Legionella, they may develop Pontiac fever, a mild, influenza-like sickness, or Legionnaires’ disease (LD), a serious type of pneumonia or lethal lung infection.

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ASHRAE Standard 188 establishes minimum legionellosis risk management requirements for centralized building water systems and components. Building owners, operators, facility managers and those involved in the design, installation and construction of these systems are expected to implement effective water system plans to prevent the occurrence of Legionella contamination. They should conduct a building survey to determine risk-factors for such and possible occupant exposure.

What Happens When You Do Not Comply

While ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188 is a voluntary consensus according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), compliance with the standard can help protect you from likely serious problems such as:

  • Legionella contamination that may be detrimental to the health of building occupants
  • Violation of OSHA regulations once Legionella is found in your building water systems
  • Legionella outbreak that can lead to lawsuits, which will result to unnecessary and possibly huge, additional costs

Required compliance should be observed in the following sections:

  • Potable water systems
  • Cooling towers and evaporative condensers
  • Filter operation and maintenance
  • Ornamental fountains and other water features
  • Misters, atomizers, humidifiers, and air washers that generate aerosol

The key principles of an effective water management must include sustenance of water temperatures that are outside the ideal range for Legionella growth, prevention of water stagnation, regular disinfection, and maintenance of basic plumbing, equipment and fixtures so they do not become a habitat nor provide nutrients for Legionella. Contact your maintenance provider now and ask about effective water management for your residential/commercial property.

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