Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Legionnaires’ disease sickened and killed more people in the United States than any other reportable waterborne disease. While Jefferson County PUD monitors, disinfects and flushes its water systems to ensure public safety, preventing legionella (the pathogen responsible for Legionnaires’ disease) is primarily the responsibility of building owners, inhabitants, and operators.
That’s because Legionella thrives in situations where water sits stagnant for an extended period of time in either water mains, building plumbing lines, or water heaters. Stagnant water loses residual chlorine disinfectant over time, which increases the risk of pathogens like legionella.
For the last couple of months, due to shutdown orders and Stay at Home policies put into place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many buildings in our county have been closed completely or accessed infrequently. If not managed properly, plumbing systems in these buildings could be at risk for Legionella colonization.
Prior to any reopening or increased usage of buildings or plumbing systems closed during the pandemic, Jefferson County PUD is urging building owners and operators need to implement protocols that would protect occupants or users from risk of contracting Legionnaires. To assist and guide you the implementation, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has developed two separate guidance documents:
- COVID-19 Guidance for Legionella and Building Water System Closures
- Guidance for Shutting Down and Reopening Water Recreation Facilities
The focus of this guidance is to reduce Legionella growth and other pathogen and corrosion concerns that occur when there is a large drop in building water use. Jefferson County PUD has posted links to the DOH documents on our website at jeffpud.org/water-safety. If you have questions about water quality, please contact Jefferson County PUD’s Resource Manager Bill Graham at (360) 385-8375 or firstname.lastname@example.org.