Swimming pools and spa baths or jacuzzis in public leisure facilities can pose a health hazard to visitors, becoming breeding grounds for legionella if not built and maintained correctly – the same goes for any system containing water, including general heating, plumbing and air conditioning.
The first step in preventing this problem is taking care to stop bacterial build-up at the outset, by considering this fully at the specification and construction stage.
We see a range of common issues that exacerbate poor water hygiene, whatever the application, issues that could have been avoided if more thought had been given to water and its usage. Specifiers and building owners are often swayed by initial price, but ‘value’ engineering choices can often be a false economy, one that leads to increased cost overtime. A whole life view is essential.
Repeat offendersModern plumbing trends: Low-flow fittings for taps and showers can exacerbate risk, allowing water to stagnate, creating the right conditions for legionella to grow. Low-flow options can be crucial in leisure environments that use a lot of water, so I’m not suggesting they should be ignored. Ongoing water system maintenance is essential, however, with regular cleaning and testing for the presence of harmful bacteria. Lack of awareness: Treatment devices may be perfectly effective, but if they’re not used properly, they won’t work. We see many examples of supplementary equipment that ends up failing or being turned off all together due to a lack of understanding in terms of their required Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) regimes or their importance – training is key, for all members of the building services and facilities management team.
Overuse of chemicals: If there is a problem, the answer is not always to throw in a load more chemicals, particularly where chlorine is concerned – the ubiquitous ‘smell’ of public pools that, for some, can be extremely irritating.
To avoid overusing chemicals, a bespoke approach is best, with legionella prevention based around a specific system and how it is used. Sometimes, simply adjusting filtration or backwash settings can be extremely effective.
The key element to cutting chemicals is to monitor the water so any treatments remain fit for purpose. Monitoring will also flag up small issues before they become big ones, allowing the root cause to be discovered and dealt with, rather than just covering up a problem.
There are also non-chemical alternatives to water treatment, such as photocatalytic water purifiers which greatly reduce bacterial levels in the water, without the use of biocides. Where chemicals are used, by tailoring dosing to a specific system and its usage, excess dosing can be avoided – a thorough approach to water hygiene doesn’t mean throwing in the sustainability towel.
Cut the chlorineNon-chemical alternatives not only treat legionella and other pathogens, but have a knock-on effect of reducing the need for chlorine. Inspired by nature’s own way of purifying water, a specific frequency of light and photocatalytic surfaces are used to create free radicals that break down harmful microorganisms and other pollutants in water. The amount of chlorine required can be significantly reduced; in some cases by as much as two thirds.
Water and energy savings can also be achieved. Photocatalytic water treatment is non-selective and breaks down all organic matter, resulting in reduced backwash volumes, as well as improving clarity. Swimming pools also smell less chemically and organic odours are prevented. In most cases, the system is installed alongside the existing filtration equipment.
Leisure facilities have a duty of care to ensure visitors are safe. Water hygiene should be a priority, with the potential consequences of a legionella outbreak devastating, costly and extremely damaging to the responsible party. ‘Safety’ doesn’t have to mean excessive chlorine, however, by taking a total approach to water hygiene – from construction through to ongoing maintenance – staff and guests will be safeguarded, their pool experience will be a more pleasant one, and, potentially, the overall efficiency of a building and how it’s maintained could be improved.
Guardian Water Treatment provides water system legionella prevention services for leisure facilities, at the construction stage as well as ongoing treatment and maintenance. Its non-chemical alternative to water treatment, Wallenius Advanced Oxidation Technology (AOT), delivers a safe, environmentally-friendly and cost-effective option for controlling bacterial growth, minimising environmental impact by reducing chemical usage.