Experts warn that the UK is now facing an increased Legionella risk and should be taking urgent steps to check water systems. Longer, warmer and wetter summers are a recognized factor in the increase in cases of the life threatening legionnaires’ disease and it should be acted on now and not ignored.
In the light of the recent horrendous flooding and more predicted to be hitting the UK, it seems timely to look at the impact of flooding on Legionella risk.
It is increasingly clear that climate change is making the world warmer and wetter, so incidents of flooding are on the rise. Property owners and businesses would be advised to put some thought into flood protection and if your home or rental portfolio is at risk of flooding, take this into account when doing your Legionella risk assessment.
Scientists believe that higher rainfall in itself is associated with a greater risk of Legionellosis. When compounded by flooding, the likelihood of Legionella bacteria transferring from the natural environment (rivers and lakes) into premises’ plumbing is greatly increased.
It has been reported this week that Flood waters and hot weather have wreaked havoc in southeast Michigan, USA with a huge spike in Legionnaires’ disease driving the latest threat.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Monday alerted public health departments, hospital officials and other health providers through its Michigan Health Network messaging system to be on the lookout for cases.
In the first two weeks of July, the state reported 107 cases of Legionnaires’ disease compared to just 16 cases over the same two-week period last year.
Legionella and Fire Safe Services are urging people to also be aware of the risk of stagnant water remaining in buildings for long periods, perhaps hidden in cavities, dead legs or unseen parts of the plumbing system, as it could harbor Legionella bacteria long after the visible flood water has been cleared.
In one rare case there has even been a situation where a pump used to extract water from a flooded basement contributed to the water heating up (due to the engine working so hard) and the property owner and two other people frequenting the building contracted Legionnaires’ disease from the tepid water.
A severe inundation of flood water can also cause physical damage to the water system by breaking pipes, dislodging water tanks or destroying other plumbing components. If your property has been flooded you’ll need to do a thorough inspection of the system and identify any damage. If you need to have repair work done it makes sense to address any longer-standing Legionella risks at the same time, such as removing dead legs or blind ends, replacing rusty pipework and cleaning water tanks. Once any plumbing repairs are completed, you’ll need to review your risk assessment too, taking into account any alterations to the system.
It’s clear that flooding can have a major impact on Legionella risk levels, so if you are unlucky enough to have been flooded ,it’s important to take professional advice to help contain, control and reduce the risk quickly. The clean-up operation after a flood is challenging enough, without worrying about the threat of Legionnaires’ disease.
For more information or advice please contact one of our specialist team on: 0800 080 3045