120Water Offers Tips to Ensure Quality Drinking Water as Schools and Facilities Open After Pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic closed schools, daycares, offices, and other buildings, and now the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is raising concerns about the drinking water that has been sitting stagnant in pipes.
According to 120Water experts, stagnant or standing water in building plumbing systems can negatively influence water quality in several ways.
“One of the biggest problems is lead in water,” said Erica Walker, director of policy & programs at 120Water. “Any facility built before 2014 may have lead pipes or plumbing fixtures, and the protective scaling that forms on pipes can be compromised as water sits, allowing lead to dissolve more readily into drinking water.”
In addition, the very chemicals that are added to drinking water to make it safe can cause issues as water sits.
“Chlorine is often used to disinfect water, but this can interact with organic matter and create harmful chemical byproducts, especially if water is allowed to sit in pipes for too long,” said Walker. “In addition, chlorine and other disinfectants lose their efficacy over time, which could allow for the growth of bacteria, such as Legionella.”
120Water recommends that building managers take three steps to ensure drinking water quality as buildings reopen:
Maintain drinking water equipment—When buildings were closed, scheduled maintenance may have been impossible. Before reopening buildings, managers should ensure that drinking water equipment is maintained, including the testing of backflow preventers, and standard maintenance of water cooling towers, boilers, and pumps.
Clean aerators/outlets and flush the system—Manual or automated flushing of drinking water clears out low quality water that has accumulated and replaces it with fresh water that has been treated recently. Flushing once for several minutes daily will not be effective and it's important to follow best practices on flushing procedures. Templates are available from the Purdue Center for Plumbing Safety and the Environmental Science, Policy & Research Institute.
Monitor water quality—Perform water tests to isolate and remediate issues before and after the building reopens. It’s a good idea to test for Legionella as well as lead and chlorine levels, and make adjustments as necessary. Testing for metals and other parameters can also be used to verify that your flushing procedures are effective. Turn off taps or provide access to filters to protect public health in the near term if high concentrations of metals persist.