Legionella Overview – LegionellaREADY

Can your facility afford not to be LegionellaREADY? The health and safety risk for Legionella bacteria and Legionnaires’ Disease can be greatly reduced through proper water hygiene. ChemREADY has a full offering to protect you and your facility:

Legionella Bacteria and Legionnaire’s Disease

Legionella pneumophila was first discovered at the 1976 American Legion Convention in Philadelphia. Legionnaires’ Disease is a pneumonia-like lung infection contracted through the aspiration of water containing the bacteria.

Legionella bacteria can be found in rivers, lakes, and streams. Low levels of bacteria can make it through municipal drinking water plants and enter building water systems, where they can multiply and flourish. If routine testing is not performed by facilities, this could eventually lead to a Legionella outbreak and potentially be the cause of Legionnaires’ Disease.

 

What building water systems can transmit Legionella bacteria?

A large source of infections has come from water distribution systems of large buildings including hotels and hospitals. Cooling towers can also be a source of transmission. Other sources include mist machines, hot tubs, and decorative fountains. Normal air conditioners are not a source of Legionnaires’ disease.

How is Legionella contracted?

The actual disease is caught by breathing in water droplets that are contaminated with the bacteria. Aspiration is the most common way that bacteria enter into the lungs to cause pneumonia. At risk individuals have a higher potential of contracting the disease through aspiration, due to physical defects in the way their body prevents aspiration, such as individuals who smoke or have lung disease.

Water Safety

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) professionals and infection control personnel must understand how to incorporate water safety into their facility’s risk management processes. Water safety plans are commonly referred to as Water Management Plans (WMP’s). The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has developed a standard, 188-2021 – Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems. This standard outlines the requirements for developing WMP’s, how risk assessments are performed, along with healthcare-specific requirements.

A WMP will document maintenance tasks, perform periodic testing, and requires verification and validation steps to ensure the plan is minimizing risk to health and safety. It’s important to have knowledgable experts on your water safety team, like ChemREADY Legionella consultants.

Healthcare

Healthcare facilities are currently required to have Water Management Plans, if they are under the requirements of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and/or the Joint Commission. As of January 1st, 2022, all Joint Commission-certified healthcare facilities are required to abide by the Joint Commission Standard EC02.05.02. This includes:

  • Documenting results of all monitoring activities
  • Corrective actions and procedures to follow if a test result outside of acceptable limits is obtained, including when a probable or confirmed waterborne pathogen(s) indicates action is necessary
  • Documenting corrective actions taken when control limits are not maintained

The team responsible for water management plans (WMP) will also need to review their program annually or whenever a change to the water system will add additional risk such as commissioning a new wing or building.

It’s important to help ensure your Water Management Plan is audit ready. Auditors will be more stringent than they have been in recent years. If you need additional information on the requirements applicable to your facility, visit our Legionella Resource Center.

Visit Legionella Resource Center

Cooling Towers

Did you know many water treatment companies don’t test for Legionella in your cooling tower? That’s because there aren’t many regulations that require it. This leaves you and your facility open to the risk of litigation if there ever were an outbreak from your water systems. Current guidance from the Cooling Technology Institute (CTI) discusses best practices and guidance regarding bacteria heterotrophic plate count. This is a simple test that roughly estimates bacteria loading in the measurement of Colony Forming Units (CFU). A heterotrophic plate count of 10,000 CFU/ml is a generally accepted operating range for most open cooling systems.

CTI Guideline 159 states, “This limit indicates that the microbial control program is providing a reasonable degree of system cleanliness, but it does not provide any guarantee that the system will be free of Legionella bacteria.” This means if water treaters don’t test for Legionella this risk is unknown to the facility and to the public.

A water safety plan for cooling towers is vital to keeping a safe environment while operating around cooling towers. The most important aspect of this, is testing for Legionella. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) recommends monthly testing for cooling towers.

Contact ChemREADY today to discuss creating your water safety and testing plan.

cooling tower side stream filtration

Learn More About Legionella Here

There are some significant changes happening in healthcare facilities when it comes to the standards required for testing and maintenance of the water systems within their buildings.
While most have heard of Legionella, there are a few things you should be sure to know about its origins, how it spreads and how to reduce the risk of Legionella in your facility.
Proper water treatment is crucial to many industrial applications. From heating and cooling systems to mining operations, making sure that your process water is safe, useable, and regulatory-friendly is vital to the longevity of your business. To ensure that your water meets regulatory standards, it’s beneficial for many facilities to employ a water management plan.