The average commercial building in the United States has a robust plumbing network that is set up to withstand high volume use. It actually thrives on it. So, what happens when these commercial spaces are no longer occupied by workers?
As a result of COVID-19, shutdowns across the commercial sector are prominent and commonplace. And, with reduced traffic in buildings, these water systems are not flowing and operating as they should, or normally do. The stoppage of water flow over prolonged periods of time, such as this, expose commercial spaces to numerous plumbing consequences. This leaves work facilities susceptible to many compromising hazards.
Water Degradation Concerns
When water systems are not being used regularly, the pipes, faucets, filters, and other plumbing connections are all sitting dry, which can lead to water degradation. Building water degradation can pose multiple threats to the integrity of your potable water.
Degradation can result from:
- Growth of microorganisms within plumbing pipes, fixtures, and water heaters.
- Build-up of harmful substances, including harsh chemicals used for disinfection and cleaning.
- Pipe deterioration from protective scale breakdown, allowing lead particles to dissolve into your water supply.
If water degradation occurs in your commercial space, your entire plumbing system will need to be flushed. And this may need to be performed numerous times to ensure your building is completely rid of your compromised water.
Once your system is back up and running with potable water, it is recommended that you turn on your fixtures at least once a day to maintain your supply. This will also wake your system up to frequent use for when your employees do return to your office space.
Once your water networks are restored, remember to practice preventative maintenance to ensure they remain in working order. You should not leave this process to the last minute before reopening your business, as you don’t want your workers to encounter insufficient water quality.
Where there is moisture, there is a potential for mold—especially when you have sitting water in your toilets. And, even if mold starts in your office restrooms, mold spores can become airborne affecting your entire space. If there is a musty odor in your space, this is a clear indication that you may have mold.
Especially after a lengthy, dormant period, if there is mold, you likely have a lot of it. It only takes mere days or weeks for mold to settle in and foster in your facilities. After the detection of mold, have your place restored before allowing any employees to return to your building, as mold can lead to serious health implications.
Potential For Legionnaires’ Disease
The bacteria, Legionella, grows and spreads in stagnant or standing water. And, if your plumbing networks are going unused, water is not flowing but rather sitting within your system. This poses the potential for the spread of legionnaires, which can lead to respiratory distress, chest pain, and headaches.
To prevent exposure, make sure your water heater is properly maintained and operating at the recommended temperature. Your unit will likely need to be flushed out to clear your system of the water that sat in your tank during the downtime of the pandemic. Additionally, your point of use systems, all fixtures, etc., should be turned on both with hot and cold water to clear them of any sitting water as well.
Have your water quality checked by a professional before reopening your building to ensure no harm to your employees. For plumbing system maintenance, contact Del-Air Mechanical at (865) 205-9929! We are continuing to practice the recommended CDC guidelines to sustain a healthy and safe maintenance process.