Protecting Your Business as We Recover From COVID-19

Posted Friday, May 1, 2020

While the country comes to terms with the inevitable impact that COVID-19 (coronavirus) will have on our lives and communities, public health authorities remain focused on breaking the chain of transmission. Many buildings are closed to the public or have limited access in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19. For building owners and operators, this poses a significant challenge to protect their assets and to ensure they are ready to reoccupy once the pandemic subsides.

Building water systems are critical and necessary to all building operations. Water that sits stagnant for an extended period of time in water mains, building plumbing lines, and water heaters loses residual chlorine disinfectant, which increases the risk of Legionella colonization. Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Legionnaires’ disease sickened and killed more people in the United States than any other reportable waterborne disease.

Skagit Public Utility District effectively monitors, disinfects and flushes its water systems to ensure public safety; however, the burden of care for managing waterborne pathogens that occur within a building’s plumbing system is the responsibility of building owners and operators.

In addition to managing systems during shutdown periods, building owners and operators need to implement well thought-out start up protocols to ensure public health protection and reduce the risk from waterborne diseases like Legionella. By implementing procedures now, you can protect the public and your customers by minimizing the steps needed to safely re-open closed or partially closed facilities.

To assist and guide you, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has developed three separate guidance documents:

The focus of this guidance is to reduce Legionella growth and other pathogen and corrosion concerns that occur when there is a large drop in building water use. If you have questions about water quality, please contact Skagit PUD’s Water Quality Coordinator Emilia Blake at (360) 848-2135 or blake@skagitpud.org.