During the COVID-19 pandemic some buildings and facilities have little or no water running through the pipes and fixtures for an extended period of time.
These stagnant water conditions can result in discolored water, lower chlorine levels, higher concentrations of lead and copper and even the proliferation of legionella, under certain building conditions. Fresh water should be drawn into the building water systems and stagnant water flushed out before the buildings are reopened. EPA and MassDEP recommend that building owners and managers take proactive steps to protect public health by minimizing water stagnation during closures and taking action to address building water quality prior to reopening. Use the following steps to get fresh water into your building:
- Review and understand the plumbing configuration and water usage in your building.
- Inspect the plumbing to ensure it is functioning properly and is in good condition.
- Contact your water utility if you have questions on water use and quality in in your area. For a list of Massachusetts public water suppliers see https://www.mass.gov/doc/public-water-suppliers-contactspreadsheet-rev-may-2020
- Maintain any water treatment systems used in the building, such as any point-of-entry or point-of-use filters or water softeners.
- Maintain the hot water system, including keeping the temperature at or above 120°F per CDC guidance to prevent Legionella growth. See CDC's guidance for reopening buildings for additional information, referenced in the Resources section below.
- Flush the building's plumbing system regularly. See instructions for flushing in the Resources section below.
- Maintain all non-drinking water building water systems and devices according to the manufacturer's specifications, such as: sprinkler systems, eye-wash stations, and safety showers, decorative fountains/water features, spas, hot tubs, pools, cooling towers, etc.
- Consider developing a water management program for your building water systems and all devices that use water. See CDC instructions for developing a water management program in the Resources section below.
- MassDEP: https://www.mass.gov/doc/massdep-building-flushing-information/download
- USEPA: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020- 05/documents/final_maintaining_building_water_quality_5.6.20-v2.pdf
- CDC Guidance for Reopening Buildings After Prolonged Shutdown or Reduced Operation: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/building-water-system.html