Restoring Your Building’s Water System After Prolonged Inactivity Due to COVID-19 Shutdown

As national, state, and local governments begin to ease social distancing restrictions, their guidance naturally comes with an abundance of caution and a warning to both take things slowly and go in with a plan. The first question that comes to mind is inevitable; how do we safely repopulate our offices, schools, and places of businesses and continue to minimize the spread of COVID-19? However, this is not the only relevant safety concern. The necessity to shelter in place at our homes has left many buildings and their plumbing systems abandoned for months. This abandonment will need to be addressed before we can safely reoccupy buildings.

Pipes left with water sitting for long periods of time could contain scale build up, excessive amounts of heavy metals, and high concentrations of microbial growth. Additionally, any hot water that was generated by heating equipment will decrease in temperature; when this happens your building’s water temperature can reach levels that allow biofilm-associated bacteria such as Legionella to grow and spread.

Regular water use also prevents a host of water safety issues. It draws disinfectants into the building and if you have lead pipes it prevents a buildup of lead in the water by flushing it out through the system’s normal functions. If your building has not been in use due to COVID-19 shutdowns these processes have been interrupted.

If you are getting ready to reopen your building after prolonged inactivity, here are the steps you need to take to restore your building’s water system safely:

  1. Contact local health department or water utility for advice about your local water safety.
  2. Consider flushing fixtures weekly during the shut-down.
  3. Complete a full plumbing system flush several times prior to reoccupying the building. This should be coordinated with the town or water utility to be completed when they are using higher levels of disinfectants.
  4. Remove aerators, shower heads, mixing valves, and filters prior to flushing.
  5. Rent or purchase chlorine monitoring devices to monitor disinfectant levels in the system.
  6. Replace all filters just prior to re-occupying the building.

There are no national or industrial guidelines for building reopening after prolonged shutdowns. COVID-19 has forced our buildings and infrastructure into an unprecedented condition. These circumstances bring with them some risks, but this risk can be alleviated through careful planning and well thought out action.  As we reboot our country, it’s important that we take the right steps to reopen our buildings to ensure water systems are safe to use after a prolonged shutdown.

Can LAN Associates help ensure my plumbing system is safe?

We can absolutely help. If you have any questions about designing a safe plumbing system in new construction or replacing your plumbing system to meet today’s demands contact LAN Associates.