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COVID-19 Building Closures for Plumbing Systems: Getting our Building Back to Work

Posted by Vital Group of Companies on Aug 7, 2020 2:02:34 PM

2020 has presented many challenges as COVID-19 slowly crept into our lives. COVID-19 is a disease caused by coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. It began back in late 2019 as a disease that plagued mainland China and worked its way through travel and trade to North America. By March 2020 it had made its way to Canada. Mid-March Canada began shutting down the doors of its businesses. Fast forward to August and we see many of businesses are re-opening or planning to do so after a stretch of nearly 2 months. Vital Engineering wants to take the time to share information on an area that could get overlooked as these businesses proceed to re-open: Plumbing Systems.

While businesses have been closed or in a period of low use, the water in the plumbing systems has likely been left stagnant. Long periods of stagnant water at low temperature can result in microbial growth, leaching heavy metals, and corrosion within the pipes. Legionella and other waterborne pathogens can create a high-risk environment for all but especially those with compromised immune systems. To avoid exposing your clients and employees to these contaminants, we recommend a maintenance regime prior to refilling your water bottles and using emergency fixtures.

Figure 1: Pipe with interior build up (via https://www.kitchenandresidentialdesign.com/)

As Vital Engineering provides design of plumbing systems in buildings, we have developed some basic recommendations to bring your plumbing system back up safely!

  1. Learn your system:
    • First gain perspective on your system to know its points. Reference existing or get a new drawing done of your plumbing system. Vital can help you with this if you need new drawings
    • Identify the point of entry for water into your building and following the drawings to identify each point of use Also make sure to find the risers, cleanouts, etc.
  1. Develop a flushing schedule
    • If your facility is operating at a lower than normal occupancy, develop a schedule. Make this a part of your housekeeping and keep a log.
    • Flushing will clear out the low quality and possibly contaminated water. It is important to identify the outlets and have a plan and checklist so as not to miss an unflushed sink or a tap. Remember to include low use fixtures such as water fountains, ice machines, hose bibs, and emergency equipment such as eyewash stations and safety showers
  1. Perform the flush:
    • Remove all aerators from your point of use taps and faucets
    • Beginning at the point of entry, open your faucets and allow the cold water to run
    • Proceed through your map/drawing created in 1 turning on all faucets and allowing them to run until the point of use fixture furthest from the PoE has been running for at least 5 minutes.
    • Repeat the procedure with hot water
    • Sanitize and re-install the aerators removed.
  1. If you have a complex building or multiple clusters, hire the professionals (engineers) to help you set up a flushing plan. Once the plan is in place, it can be made part of housekeeping. A maintenance and cleaning log will ensure flushing is done regularly to minimize risk

For further details on water management plans and how to prepare your HVAC for the post-COVID-19 era, check out our other blog posts or reach out to us!

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