From the May 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By: Thom Wellington
Recently, my wife and I checked into a Florida condo at Christmas for a long planned get away — someplace warm, with an ocean view, to relax and plan for the coming new year.
Once we checked into our room, I noticed the toilet bowel was not refilling. Since I am unfortunately an experienced replacement toilet part installer, I fiddled with the water-level equipment in the tank. While adjusting the fill cartridge height in the bowl, my wife leaned her head into the room and informed me the plumbing in the condo was not working. She demonstrated by turning the kitchen faucet arm on and no water coming out.
I quickly realized my adjustment inside the toilet tank was fruitless – the problem was no water in the condominium unit, or even worse, in the entire 19 story building.
Next step was hunting for the water source. The small furnace closet in the condo hallway had multiple exposed copper pipes. After studying the plumbing architecture, one valve was perpendicular to the pipe – it had to be the water main for the unit. After turning the valve lever parallel with the copper pipe, water rushed to fill the empty voids in the pipes, the toilet tank and the hot water heater tank. This is where knowledge can be scary.
I informed my wife that we need to allow the faucets to operate for at least five minutes while turned to a warm setting. I was not worried about wasting water; I was more concerned with what could happen if the system was not properly flushed. We ran the two showers for an equal amount of time to flush the dormant shower heads.
I work as a consultant focused on Legionella, which can create fear most wouldn’t understand. Sometimes too much knowledge can be scary.
Too little knowledge can be just as scary. A hospital thinking that having cooling towers sampled twice a year equated to an adequate water management plan or a nursing home setting hot water tanks to 118°F for fear of scalding is just as dangerous.
Legionella exposure stories seem to be a daily event. Just days before our trip an upscale hometown hotel closed for specialized water system cleaning due to two reported cases. Imagine the cost to the hotel, closing just as visitors were arriving for the Christmas holiday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “after Legionella grows and multiplies in a building water system, water containing Legionella then has to spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in. People can get Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria.” While not everyone gets sick when exposed to Legionella people at increased risk of getting sick are older adults, smokers, diabetics, COPD sufferers, and those with low immune tolerance conditions such as cancer treatment patients.