Dave Lancaster from Uponor, provider of total solutions for the safe transportation of water around buildings, discusses the importance of safeguarding guests against the risk of Legionnaires disease.
Legionnaires disease is a serious form of pneumonia, which can result in potentially fatal consequences for elderly guests, or those with existing respiratory problems such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The illness, caused by Legionella bacteria, is normally found in natural water bases such as ponds and lakes, but can also breed in stagnant water between 20°C and 45°C.
The most common sources of legionella in man-made water systems include hot and cold-water systems and spa pools. However, the bacteria can also be found in other structures such as humidifiers, air washers, emergency showers, and indoor ornamental fountains.
With the above being prevalent in the hotelier sector, it is imperative hotels establish a clear Legionella control scheme to prevent the contamination of water transportation systems within the building. Such measures include temperature control regimes, disinfection measures and regular monitoring and reporting. As well as this preventative action, it is equally crucial that hotel managers take appropriate steps to minimise the health risks to guests by reducing the likelihood of Legionella bacteria breeding within a property’s plumbing and heating systems.
Key areas at risk
Being aware of the ‘danger zones’ in older systems is crucial. This is when ongoing repairs or re-routing of water pipes result in ‘dead-legs’ – runs of pipework that are not commonly in use – or ‘blind-ends’ – lengths of pipe which have been terminated and are no longer in use. Both of these can lead to the build-up of stagnant water, providing the ideal environment for Legionella bacteria to thrive. For that reason, it’s important that if you are aware of a length of pipework forming part of your system is rarely used or has been capped off, you take action to have it removed to prevent the spread of potentially deadly bacteria.
That said, systems within hotels that have been built more recently are not without their risk either. This is because a key requirement of a modern building is to use more efficient water outlets and reduce water consumption, which can often lead to oversized supply pipe work. Unless the pipe network has been specifically designed to adapt to these reduced flows, there is a high risk of stagnant water.
MLP Pipes for happy guests and hoteliers
When it comes to selecting a new water system, there are steps hoteliers should take in order to help minimise the risk of Legionella. Traditional copper piping, found in many older systems, can harbour bacterial growth on the internal wall of the pipe. By switching to modern piping with smoother internal surfaces, such as MLCP (multi-layer composite), you can reduce this risk.
What’s more, small crevices where two pipes connect can increase the likelihood of bacterial growth, creating the ideal condition to harbour and cultivate Legionella. By opting for modern pipes, that are sealed on the inside and provide a smoother and more hygienic connection, you can further reduce the chance of bacteria growth within the new system.
The smoother internal surface of modern pipes such as MLCP has additional benefits of improving flow rates and eliminating the loss of heat – which helps to maintain water pressure and ensure a consistent temperature in guest rooms at all times. On top of this, this particular type of pipe system offers greater flexibility in comparison with copper, requiring fewer joints and reducing the clanking and knocking sounds that generate so many guest complaints in hotels. What’s more, fewer joints also means less vulnerability to leaks so less maintenance is required.
Closing the loop
Finally, choosing the correct pipework configuration is also crucial. ‘Loop’ installations flush water through the whole local pipe network every time any water outlet is opened, and is therefore the most effective method for reducing the possibility of bacteria growing here. This type of system also enables the use of a consistent pipe size throughout, requires fewer connections and fittings, and eradicates runs of pipework which are not used, preventing stagnation and subsequently the risk of Legionella bacteria.
For more information on preventing Legionella and on Uponor’s range of solutions, visit: www.uponor.co.uk