Hot and cold water systems can provide an environment where Legionella bacteria can flourish. Legionella bacteria is quite common but usually exists in relatively low numbers. If allowed to grow and multiply it has the potential to become a health concern. Inhaling contaminated water droplets suspended in the air can cause the potentially fatal, pneumonia-like Legionnaires' Disease. It can also cause the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac Fever and Lochgoilhead Fever.
Everyone is susceptible to infection but the following groups may be at a higher risk:
- anyone over the age of 45
- smokers and heavy drinkers
- chronic respiratory or kidney disease sufferers
- anyone with an impaired or weakened immune system
Under certain conditions any building's water system could be a source for Legionella growth. For example, where
- water is stored or re-circulated as part of the system
- the water isn't kept at the right temperature
- there are sources of nutrients like rust, sludge, scale and organic matter
- any outlets are regularly unused for periods of more than 7 days
How are we managing the risks?
Our Legionnaires' Disease Policy sets out how the risks from Legionella will be managed.
- Legionnaires' Disease policy
Legionella risk assessments are carried out for all premises operated by Falkirk Council. These identify any high risk areas and any specific actions needed to manage them. Not all water systems require elaborate control measures. The Council has developed a set of basic controls aimed at making sure water systems are being kept in a suitable condition:
- regular maintenance, cleaning and disinfection of water systems
- keeping the hot water above 50 °C and the cold below 20°C
- reducing stagnation by flushing any infrequently used water outlets on a weekly basis.
Premises Managers will make sure that these controls are in place to minimise opportunities for Legionella bacteria to multiply.
It is important that Legionella risk assessments are reviewed regularly but especially if there is any change to the water system, how it's used or any change to how the building is used. If there have been any changes you should contact Facilities to consider whether a review is necessary.