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Preventing Legionella outbreaks in buildings and hotels

This summer, as usual, might result in the now commonly seen spike in cases of Legionella or Legionnaires’ Disease, the deadly condition caused

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Legionella in hotels

This summer, as usual, might result in the now commonly seen spike in cases of Legionella or Legionnaires’ Disease, the deadly condition caused by bacteria growth in static water that has been left to stagnate – especially because the new coronavirus pandemic has caused lockdowns and the closure of many buildings, thus increasing the chances of accumulations of Legionella bacteria.

In a recent case in the United Kingdom, a hotel in Wolverhampton was closed down by the Wolverhampton Council after legionella was discovered in its water samples.  Cases like this can be tremendously damaging to a hotel reputation, impacting both reputation as well as bottom line.

   

Why is water hygiene exceptionally significant in leisure and hotel facilities?

This kind of facilities utilise a lot of water: for drinking purposes, hot water and heating, as well as many also include Jacuzzis, spas and swimming pools – all of these are potential bacteria strongholds.  Moreover, water usage in hotels is not constant, fluctuating depending on the season and leading to potential stagnation during periods of lower use.

If water systems are not maintained correctly or built properly, the efficiency of the systems themselves will suffer, posing a higher risk to human health.

   

What can we do to guarantee legionella protection?

An integral approach, all the way from construction and through to ongoing maintenance, will definitely improve the efficiency of the water system, as well as safeguarding staff, reputation and guests.  Here are our main tips for a healthy hotel water system:

1) Do not ‘fit and forget’: to guarantee leisure facilities are able to prevent legionella from the outset, care needs to be taken at the construction and specification stage.  Value water treatment solutions, like magnetic water conditioners, for instance, are usually favoured at this stage because of their low energy as well as low maintenance credentials. Unfortunately in practice we see varied results.  Issues frequently present themselves many months or even years after commissioning, because lime-scale formation isn’t controlled throughout the whole water system as efficiently as with regular salt-based water softeners. To keep safety standards high, run a Legionella risk assessment once per year or even more often.

2) Consider ongoing maintenance a top priority: low flow fitting for showers and taps can be key in leisure environments that utilise large amounts of water; they can exacerbate the risk by letting water stagnate, generating the perfect conditions for legionella to grow.  To counter this, frequent water system maintenance is essential, with frequent testing and cleaning, as well as checking the presence of harmful bacteria.  Legionella risk assessment is vital in order to comply with legislation and to keep guests safe and healthy.

3) Take a bespoke approach: simply increasing the dosage of chemicals will not always result in a better legionella protection.  Sometimes adjusting filtration can result in a more efficient system, rather than simply throwing in chemicals, regardless of the actual need. Where chemicals are added, by tailoring dosing to a specific system and its use, excess dosing can be avoided – an exhaustive approach to water hygiene does not necessarily mean throwing in the sustainability towel.

4) Reduce chlorines and chemicals: treating legionella as well as other pathogens, non-chemical water treatment options, such as AOT, have a knock-on-effect of decreasing the need of chlorine; in certain cases by as much as 2/3.  Swimming pools as well as other leisure facilities can smell less chemically and organic odours avoided.

5) Get trained: we see many cases of supplementary treatment devices that eventually end up failing or being turned off completely because of the lack of understanding when it comes to their required PPM or Planned Preventative Maintenance regimes or their importance – training is crucial, for all the members that are involved in the facilities management team.

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