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Water experts realise that legionella testing is vital in the legal control of its bacteria which spreads through water systems, causing pneumonia-type illness. Everybody is susceptible to its effects although the most vulnerable being the most likely to succumb to the most serious and negative strains of bacteria caused by legionella.
We will discuss why business and domestic property owners and those renting out a property should follow guidelines regarding legionella risk testing.

Where is Legionella Usually Found?

The bacteria are usually discovered in natural aquatic environments such as lakes, ponds and rivers. However, modern water systems can also attract the bacteria. Where favourable warm conditions are offered, the bacteria can spread therefore it’s essential that control and monitoring of the risk is managed properly.

Engineered water systems such as cooling towers, hot and cold-water systems, spas and pools are all at risk. Any plumbing system can be susceptible to the bacteria. This means that any building or system, including commercial and domestic properties making use of engineered water systems, is at risk of spreading legionella related disease.

Where Does Legionella Originate?

Although rare, the bacteria can grow in the right conditions such as where the water is retained at a warm temperature. The usual suitable growth temperatures are between 20-45 °C.
If rust, sludge, mould, organic matter and scale are present this will encourage the survival, growth and spread of legionella bacteria.

How do People Contract Legionella-Related Diseases?

All that is needed for people to contract an illness due to legionella is by taking in the bacteria through steam or water droplets contaminated with it.

Where there are water outlets or locations that store water that is recirculated, there can be a spread of legionella through the air. This includes offices, hotels, hospitals, spas – anywhere utilising engineered water cooling and heating systems.

This means that any hot/cold water system, cooling system or water storage application can provide the growth and spread of legionella. Attractive to the bacteria are the warm conditions they can survive and grow in.

Related legionella diseases can be serious and include:

• Legionnaires’ Disease

A serious lung infection which is caught through air-conditioning systems, showers, hot tubs – in fact any system which produces an aerosol. It can be caught at hotels, spas, hospitals, gyms and offices.
Legionnaires’ is not usually contracted through drinking water containing the bacteria. It is also unusual to catch it through natural resources such as ponds, lakes and rivers.

• Pontiac Fever

This is a flu-like illness that is not as serious as Legionnaires’ disease which can affect the young and healthy.

Why Are Risk Assessments Essential?

Where systems are in place that present a risk to health and safety, it is your responsibility to manage that risk.
Whether a domestic or commercial building has water systems installed, as a property owner you must legally comply with UK ruling, regulations and codes of practice. The water systems in use must meet guidelines set out by the HSE (Health & Safety Executive).

What are the Options Available?

Legionella testing is very easy to carry out with results returned to you in approximately 12 – 13 days.
Once you have received your water testing kit, then a water sample should be collected in the pack we send you. Upon contacting us we pay for a courier to transfer the sample to our laboratory.

The sample(s) are incubated for 10 days and we will then supply the results. Advice and recommendations will be provided and a certificate issued for your records.

A suitably qualified water expert can carry out a risk assessment in order to provide professional results, advice and treatment where required should legionella bacteria be picked up in the water sample.

Water testing kits for legionella are available from Aquacert, providing accurate results through certified laboratory testing once samples are collected from you. They are a cost effective way of testing if the bacteria are present in water. Testing kits are ideal for:

• Dental and Doctor’s Surgeries
• Hotels
• Nurseries
• Hot Tub/Spa Areas
• Drinking Water Units
• Showers
• Hot Water Systems
• Care Homes
• Hospital Water Outlets

The tests are easy to use and conform to all regulations and guidelines regarding legionella testing.

The results can be analysed quickly and advice provided if there are bacteria present.

Aquacert will provide recommendations on remedial action steps should they be required, with all results recorded on our database and a reminder sent when the next legionella water test is due at your property.

Author: Duncan Hollis