Since the outbreak of lead-contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan hit the mainstream media in 2015, water quality has become a serious concern for the general public. Beyond water quality issues, poorly maintained pipe systems in buildings have lead to outbreaks of life-threatening water diseases, such as Legionaries disease. According to the US Center for Diseases and Control Legionella is now the primary source of potable waterborne disease outbreaks and deaths in the United States. The links between poorly maintained pipe infrastructure and water quality have lead government agencies and other organizations such as the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) and the American Society Heating, Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to implement new standards to improve water quality and pipe infrastructure.
Implementing responsibility to building owners and property managers is the key point to the new ANSI/ASHRAE 188 Standard. What does this mean for owners and managers? The 188 Standard’s purpose it to minimize water-related diseases by having owners and managers implement a risk management plan for their building’s water systems. Typically, many people would think that catching a water disease only happens in third world countries, when in fact day to day activities, such as taking a shower or walking by a fountain in a mall, can put them at risk. However, some water systems are more at risk than others: cooling towers, evaporative condensers, whirlpool spas, fountains and potable water systems are all high-risk systems that managers should consider looking at first. To meet the 188 Standard managers need to comply with the following four initiatives:
- Meet minimum standard risk management requirements for building water system (potable and non-stable) as specified by the standard.
- Conduct a building survey to identify risk factors for water disease, contamination, and occupant exposure.
- Appoint a team of staff to develop and implement a water management program for risk management of the building water system.
- Develop control strategies for the water management program that’s necessary to meet the 188 Standard.
Developing these plans and strategies is a necessary step toward keeping occupants safe but, also staying clear of potential lawsuits, and the EPA or other local public health enforcement agencies. By conducting regular surveys of high-risk water systems in addition to having a dedicated plan to control potential water-borne diseases, providing safe water systems is possible.
Developing maintenance programs is a key initiative to consider when implementing a water risk management program. The general consensus among water scientists and researchers is that the challenge is not developing new disinfectants to sanitize our water, but maintaining current pipe systems is the key to minimizing the potential of water-borne diseases. Over time, pipe systems have the tendency to incur biofilm build-ups in the interior walls of a pipe system which is how opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens (OPPPs) occur in a pipe system that leads to water-borne diseases. Maintenance programs that include flushing the pipe system’s biofilm build up in addition to installing an epoxy barrier coating can provide a long-term preventative solution to OPPPs occurrence. Containing the pipe interior reduces the grooves biofilm needs to attach to the pipe system. Reducing the biofilm ultimately means a reduction in OPPPs.
ANSI/ASHRAE 188 Standard is a step towards better water system standards that will keep communities healthy while also putting a spotlight on the importance of funding and investing in piping systems. Overcoming the battle against water diseases related to water systems will take more than federal regulations – it will take educating property owners and managers on their pipe system problems and giving them the necessary technologies and tools in the fight against water-borne diseases.