To assist non-domestic customers preparing to re-use buildings after a period of closure or under-utilisation, Irish Water has issued advice and practical tips to help ensure internal water and wastewater systems are made safe for staff, customers and visitors:
Issues with unused water in buildings
A number of issues can arise when buildings are left unused for a period of time. These include leaks that cause damage to premises and stock; blockages in pipes from fats, oils or greases; dead rodents in water tanks that can cause contamination; and stagnant water in plumbing and cooling systems that can create serious health risks such as Legionnaires’ disease. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and hospitalisation is generally required to treat symptoms.
There are number of measures that business owners and facility managers can take to mitigate these risks and these are all outlined on water.ie.
Yvonne Harris, Head of Customer Operations, says “Business owners and facility managers can reduce water related risks when reopening buildings and premises by following our guidelines. Irish Water has detailed some simple steps on water.ie that business owners and facility managers should take that will help to protect the health of staff, visitors and customers. The safe re-opening of buildings will require the use of considerable amounts of water, which is one of the reasons we emphasised the need for water conservation in the home recently. The priority must be the health and safety of anyone entering or working in a recently closed building so business owners and facility managers should take all the necessary steps.”
Bringing systems and devices back into use
When bringing water systems and devices safely back into use businesses should:
Flush water pipes by running taps until the water temperature is constant and mains water is drawn through the system;
Clean all drinking water outlets with suitable disinfectants;
Flush all toilets, and run water through sinks and shower basins, to ensure that the water trap seal is replenished in the u-bends;
Inspect all storage tanks and cisterns, and drain, clean, disinfect and refill as necessary;
Clean shower-heads with disinfectant and flush water through until clean, with a minimum temperature of 60°C for hot water showers;
Empty hot water tanks and refill with water heated to 70° C for at least an hour before use;
Replace filter cartridges in water filters and clean & disinfect the cartridge holder according to manufacturer’s instructions, then run water through to flush clear;
Check pumps on the building’s water/wastewater system to ensure that they are operating correctly;
Check sewer & drains and clear any blockages promptly;
Check on-site wastewater treatment systems to ensure they are operating correctly.
Booklets are also available
Full information, as well as a booklet are available here.
As every building is different, building managers should get specialist advice if in-house expertise is not available. Some businesses, such as the hospitality sector, healthcare providers and leisure centres, may need more detailed measures associated with water-using equipment. The HSE has useful resources on its website such as its Checklist for Leisure Centres.
Irish Water continue to work with our Local Authority partners to maintain a safe and reliable public water supply and to safeguard the health and well-being of staff and the public as Covid-19 restrictions are eased and businesses begin to re-open.