Water Treatment Edition: Protecting YOU during the Pandemic

Posted by Matthew Bronley

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While adapting to the unpredictable changes due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, it may be difficult to maintain water treatment in Cooling Towers and reduce the risk of Legionella growth.  Such instances could be the reduction in on-site engineers and responsible parties that can record water quality measurements and bacteriological concentrations, let alone report them if they happen to be a high colony forming unit that requires an immediate remediating response.  New York City developed temporary changes to the Chapter 8 Legionella Law recently by allowing buildings to only do water quality testing for pH, temperature, and residual biocides once a week (rather than three times a week). 

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Based on the current scenario requiring social distancing and only essential businesses to run, business owners and engineers may feel uncomfortable allowing consultants and service technicians to visit the site.  There may be fears that service reps who are constantly out in the field are being exposed to the virus.  It is also inevitable that high concentrations of Legionella cultures will be reported as well as localized outbreaks will proliferate in non-essential communities as humidity and temperatures rise during the Spring and Summer months.  Since symptoms of Pontiac fever and Legionellosis are similar to that of Covid-19 disease, it may also be harder to diagnose and detect immediately.  There are various options that can aid during the pandemic while maintaining proper treatment and business with our customers.  Such measures include proper protective equipment, web-enabled smart controllers, and remote training techniques.

Protective equipment can aid in preventing the spread of Covid-19 between customers and the service representative while routine service is conducted. N95 respirators are provided for each representative to prevent any viral aerosols from traveling from the representative to the customer and vice-versa since the virus may be able to linger in the air of indoor locations for several hours.  Nitrile gloves are also necessary in order to prevent representatives from coming in contact with the virus on metallic surfaces as the virus can stay on surfaces for days.  A Tyvek suit that covers the representative from head to toe is also an option to limit the virus’s spread.

A “Smart” controller, such as the Walchem 900 Series, is advantageous over other controllers, such as Microvision, when providing remote service for customers.  The remotely accessible controller can provide all the details for Water Quality testing purposes except for Heterotrophic Culture Samples or DIP slide analysis (which is required to be completed on a weekly basis).  A representative can also dive into the controller from any location to adjust biocides dosages on the fly for changes in water quality of the make-up water supply or to respond to a heightened culture sample.  Not only that, but conductivity can also be monitored remotely and the bleed schedule or set-point can be adjusted as necessary to prevent scaling and corrosion.

Remote learning can be organized between the consultant and the customer where they can be trained through video conference.  Trainings can include water chemistry testing, compliance orientation, Department of Health violation consultation, and sampling protocols.  Programs such as Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams can assist in this and are very user friendly.  Remote consultation prevents close contact with the customer and maximizes the use of practicing social distancing guidelines.

Overall, it is best practice during these unpredictable times to maintain social distance with the customer, conduct any precautionary safety measures in order to prevent the spread of the virus, and minimize the risk of Legionella growth in susceptible water systems.  The utilization of Proper Protective Equipment with the service representatives, remote “Smart” controllers, and access to video conferencing tools are key to protecting everyone from both Covid-19 and Legionella.

Want to learn more about Legionella? 

Topics: legionella, cooling tower, legionella risk minimization, outbreaks, remote, NEW YORK, distancing

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