Avoiding Legionella in Hotels in the Times of COVID-19

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The travel and hospitality industries have been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both personal and business-related travel took a drastic dip for a number of reasons. Many events and venues that would normally draw crowds from afar have had to operate at limited capacity or even shut down completely during the pandemic. Businesses have turned to Zoom calls and virtual events instead of in-person interactions. And, of course, many people just simply haven’t been comfortable with traveling, vacationing, and attending events due to safety concerns.

All of this has resulted in fewer people staying in hotels during the pandemic. It is magnified by the drop-off in events like weddings, banquets, and business meetings, which are often held at hotels and directly lead to attendees booking rooms for overnight stay. You also have hotel restaurants and bars operating at limited capacity or moving strictly to takeout models.

Reduced Water Usage at Hotels

The decline in hotel guests, events, and food services means there’s less use of things like sinks and showers in the guest rooms, as well as the hotel pools, spas, restrooms, kitchens, and bars. This often results in hotels experiencing a drastic reduction in overall water usage.

Are you managing a hotel or extended stay facility during this global pandemic? Have you experienced limited occupancy, turned off water features, and even had to close pools and spas? If so, it is extremely important that you’re not overlooking necessary and routine water maintenance in your facility. While you have surely adopted COVID-19 protocols to provide guests with a clean, safe, and comfortable environment, don’t let your water system lead to other dangerous problems.

Dirty Water and Potential Dangers Lurking

As a leader in the water treatment industry, we at Clarity Water Technologies have noticed that hotel facilities are experiencing an uptick in customer complaints about dirty water. This, if left unchecked, could lead to a rise in detectible cases of Legionella pneuemopila in system building water. Clarity can help make sure you’re not inadvertently enabling the growth of a dormant waterborne bacteria.

How Limited Water Usage Can Lead to Problems in a Hotel

Continuous water movement in a facility protects and maintains high quality potable water. Hotel guests’ use of sinks, showers, and tubs, as well the hotel’s operation of areas like pools, spas, and kitchens, draw fresh water into the system. When water usage drops, cold water from an incoming main will sit in your plumbing and adjust to the ambient temperature. These tepid water temperatures are a breeding condition for bacteria, many of which exist naturally in water. One such bacterium is, Legionella pneumophila. Legionella bacteria is responsible for Legionnaires’ disease, which is a form of pneumonia that includes cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle pain, and headaches. This bacterial infection, when introduced into a healthy person, can be fought off; however, those who are immunocompromised can develop severe, and even fatal, cases.

Bacteria Growth in Hot Water Systems

While Legionella exists in cold water, we see it proliferate in a facility’s hot-water system. It is here where incoming water mixes with the hot-water return and feeds into a hot water heater. Some facilities use instantaneous hot-water heaters, while other facilities prefer upright hot-water tank heating systems. Upright hot-water tank heating systems will typically heat water in a profile like manner. That means there is the unequal heating within the tank that forces convective motion, much like boiling pasta on the stove. This convective process in a large vessel can encourage dissolved solids to precipitate or fall out of the heated water. These sediments can build on heating elements and also begin to fill the basin of hot-water tanks.

To prevent sediment buildup as well as a decrease in heating efficiency, hot-water tanks must be addressed regularly. When sediments adhere to heating elements, heat-transfer decreases and the water will not become as hot as thermally designed. This can and will limit the “thermal killing effect” a hot-water heater may provide on living bacteria. If bacterium is not eliminated due to lower-than-specified high temperatures, that bacteria will most likely continue to grow both within the tank as well as the distribution system. Essentially, you supercharge the growth of the bacteria and continue to cycle that unused water within the system. Fresh cold water, from the incoming water main will bring nutrients for the bacteria to feed on and now you have created a vicious cycle. Again, if you experience these or similar issues, we can address these problems with effective interventions.

How Clarity Can Help

The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone. Clarity has seen first-hand the toll it has taken on the hospitality industry. As water usage remains low, natural waterborne bacteria continues to build in facility plumbing. Clarity has the experience, technology and infrastructure to provide building remediation services. With a facility-wide approach, we can disinfect and flush currently-stagnated plumbing systems and provide ongoing integrated water maintenance plans. In situations where waterborne bacteria continue to exist, we can also accommodate those facilities with state-of-the-art online disinfection systems that will provide your building with a secondary form of potable water disinfection.

If you are experiencing these problems or you are looking for help in better understanding your building water, please feel free to reach out to Clarity Water Technologies with any questions or comments.

About Clarity Water Technologies

Clarity Water Technologies is the leading industrial and commercial water treatment company, providing expert consulting and cutting-edge chemistry for your facility’s heating, cooling, potable and process applications.

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About the Clarity Blog

Clarity’s Water Treatment blog is written to provide tips and helpful information to anyone who is involved in managing a water treatment application at a facility. 

Our water treatment experts are here to help, no matter what your facility’s heating, cooling, potable or process application may be.  Check our blog for articles on topics like boiler and cooling water, cooling tower cleaning, legionella prevention and remediation, and environmentally-friendly water treatment options.

Clarity Water Technologies is the leading industrial and commercial water treatment company in the U.S.

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