There's Something in the Water

When it comes to potable water for commercial facilities, for the most part, no additional treatment is required or provided between the local water utility and the facility. Unless you've got a filtered water cooler, what you get from the spigot is what you drink. One exception to this is in healthcare facilities.

07/01/2003


When it comes to potable water for commercial facilities, for the most part, no additional treatment is required or provided between the local water utility and the facility. Unless you've got a filtered water cooler, what you get from the spigot is what you drink.

One exception to this is in healthcare facilities. A major reason is that they are very concerned with Legionella bacteria, the cause of Legionnaires' Disease. "These bacteria can be present in potable water, and worse, they can amplify within the domestic plumbing systems of hospitals and healthcare facilities to present a disease potential for their hospital populations," says Bill Pearson, president of the Association of Water Technologies and director of consulting and technical services for Southeastern Laboratories, Goldsboro, N.C.

The notorious disease first appeared in 1976 in an outbreak at the Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia in which 34 people died. As a result, healthcare facilities must now meet requirements set by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations to control the potential for waterborne pathogens in cooling towers and potable water.

"As far as addressing Legionnaires' Disease or the bacteria Legionella, we're seeing a lot of the healthcare facilities do some type of additional potable water treatment at the site," Pearson says.

Two widely used treatment systems are chlorine dioxide and copper-silver ionization. Both systems are point-of-entry treatment, which means that water is continuously treated as it enters the facility. Other supplemental treatment options include super chlorination and heat eradication, where the water temperature is heated to 160° or above.

Pearson also notes that Legionella has been discovered on cruise ships, and additional water treatment is often implemented on those vessels. Facilities with spas or hot tubs are also more stringent with their water standards, as bacteria has been associated with them, as well. But again, in general, the law only requires water to meet potable standards from the municipal supply, and most facility types don't feel obligated to exceed those standards.

A better system

"In the workplace, we've seen the need to provide greater safety and less labor-intensive involvement with the water treatment program," Pearson says, also pointing out that water treatment duties should be left in the hands of a full-service water treatment supplier.

He points to major recent advancements in the feed, monitoring and control equipment for water treatment programs and the fact that equipment has become more effective, significantly less expensive and able to be monitored remotely. Additionally, the industry push has been to lessen the difficulty and safety hazards associated with handling water treatment in facilities, and hands-free capabilities are now the norm.

"In the old days, you had to take a bucket and pour some hazardous chemicals into the bucket and carry it up to the cooling tower and dump it in," he says. "You can see how labor intensive that was as well as how unsafe it was. [Now], the difficulty and labor requirements are less than they have ever been."



Options for supplemental potable water treatment

Chlorine dioxide

Copper-silver ionization

Heat eradication

Super chlorination



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