Home Pollution Rising Risk: Climate Change And The Legionella Threat

Rising Risk: Climate Change And The Legionella Threat

As temperatures rise, the Legionella risk in your water system is intensifying. Ian Adams, Head of Marketing at Clearwater explores how the risk can be controlled safely and sustainably  

Countryside - reservoir
Image credit: Dan Stephens (c)

While many are embracing warmer summers year on year, we must be aware of the impacts of climate change. As a result of rising temperatures, the hidden risk of Legionella in water systems is becoming heightened.

Epidemiologists recently pointed to climate change as a driving factor behind the startling rise in deadly cases of Legionnaires Disease; a disease that spawns from Legionella bacteria that thrives in water systems where the water temperature is 20-45°C. Legionella bacteria can be inhaled in the form of airborne water droplets that can entered the air through mist or spray from a water system.

Legionella control is an essential requirement in any building or facility. The risk is particularly significant in hospitals and healthcare facilities where the fatal threat is greater for immunosuppressed patients including new-born children and elderly people.

Seasonal recreation sites such as holiday parks, campsites, lidos and public gardens can also be areas of high risk because water can stagnate during the quieter months. As summers become warmer still, these sites could see increased public use, meaning more people becoming exposed to the potential risk.

In late 2018. a local authority in South East England was fined £27,000 over failure to manage the Legionella risk after a Legionnaires’ outbreak at a council-run leisure centre left a man fighting for his life.

A belt and braces approach to controlling the Legionella threat

Temperature control has traditionally been the primary method of controlling the Legionella risk. Boilers and water heaters control the water temperature to avoid the occurrence of a Legionella outbreak. The more recent development of chemical dosing has provided a second method of protection when temperature alone is not sufficient.

Chemical dosing has been a significant development in the management legionella risk, continually cleansing water systems of legionella, microorganisms, biofilm and other harmful pathogens while maintaining a safe quality of water that is fit for human consumption.

Dosing systems with built-in software deliver timely batched quantities of Chlorine Dioxide (ClO₂) into the water system, avoiding underdosing and overdosing. Systems with built-in software usually store service and treatment information, aiding the management of compliance around Legionella control.

By using a combination of both temperature control and chemical dosing in a belt and braces approach, greater peace of mind can be achieved through these two layers of defence. Using ClO2 dosing, your water system is running cleaner with less biofilm, scale and other harmful elements, meaning the boiler works more efficiently and uses less energy in temperature control.

Sustainability credentials can be further increased by optimising plant equipment for greater energy efficiency, resulting in lower energy bills and a smaller carbon footprint.

Optimising for greater energy efficiency in Legionella control

Regular boiler and water system assessments and maintenance can lead to direct energy savings through the reduction of sludge, scale and corrosion in the system. These elements can inhibit efficiency meaning the system has to work harder to reach and maintain optimum temperatures, driving energy consumption higher. A single millimeter of scale build-up inside a boiler can cause up to 10% of heat loss meaning energy consumption is increased with every heat cycle.

A typical assessment should identify any leaks or inefficiencies in the boiler and water system. Ensuring these checks are performed on a regular basis can deliver ROI by catching issues before they intensify, avoiding costly repair or replacement of components further down the line.

In many buildings and businesses, the management of the water system and associated compliances are often managed internally, yet it can be difficult to keep up with changing water management practices and compliance obligations. Enlisting a water treatment provider that has the skills and experience to deliver a full proof Legionella control programme as well as an energy optimization programme will deliver ROI by ensuring all bases are covered.

Another option is investing in the necessary training for your existing staff to manage these areas. A water treatment provider that has experience across various industries should be able to provide the relevant training through City and Guilds courses which can be taught at a specialist facility or on your own premises.

It’s clear that environmental risks are intensifying as temperatures continue to rise. Now is the time to consider investing in vital measures that protect those in and around your premises from the growing Legionella risk.


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