Whether you're reopening a school, or returning to a home after months away, the below guidance on reopening after the COVID-19 lockdowns still applies -- so follow the instructions to refresh your water supply for reopening -- whatever facility or property that might be.
Recommended Guidance for Post-Covid-19 Water Management for Businesses
Due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 Virus and the Stay-at-home/ Shelter-in-Place orders given by the Governor on March 23, 2020 to take effect April 1, 2020 through May 8th, 2020, Many businesses and public facilities have been left vacant with very little water usage for an extended period of time.
Some of these facilities currently have a water use plan in place for situations like these, but most do not. The MAWC is issuing this guidance in response to these circumstances in order to ensure the safety of the water supply and the health and welfare of our customers as businesses and facilities begin to reopen and the Shelter-in-Place orders are lifted. Facilities should contact a plumber to assist with this guidance. Further information for specific businesses can be found on the CDC website at the link below.
The MAWC water contains a residual disinfectant. As water use in a building slows or stops, the water tends to stagnate, causing a loss of this residual disinfectant which can lead to biological growth, as well as taste and odor issues, discolored water, and potential leaching of higher than normal concentrations of service line and premise plumbing materials such as Lead and Copper. Keeping the water moving, flushed and refreshed is crucial in these situations to ensure clean, clear water free of these unhealthy contaminants.
The MAWC, during the Stay at Home orders, has been proactive in ensuring the best quality water through our distribution system, and as these orders are lifted, we are here to assist even further. We have maintained a Free Chlorine residual throughout our distribution system, and as businesses are reopening, we are doing extended flushing of our distribution mains in the attempt to supply the freshest water possible more quickly to businesses and commercial areas that may be clustered in areas that have seen low water use. The MAWC monitors the disinfectant residual to ensure that all water exceeds public health standards. Please NOTE: This Document contains only Recommended Guidance for Water system Flushing. If your facility currently has a Water use plan in place, Please follow your individual plan.
Recommended Guidance for Water System Flushing Before Re-Opening
1. Remove or Bypass Point- of- Entry treatment units.
2. Take Steps to prevent Backflow or Back Siphoning of contaminants into plumbing.
a. See the MAWC Backflow prevention guidelines on our website at: mawc.org/backflow.
b. Close valves separating irrigation systems from premise plumbing.
c. Disconnect hoses attached to faucets.
3. Remove all tap aerators/screens where possible prior to flushing.
4. Flush the COLD water first.
5. Open all outlets on the lowest floor in order to maximize flow and fully refresh the water through the service line.
6. Begin to organize flushing throughout every floor and every tap individually, from the lowest floors, up to the highest. Flushing water through only one tap at a time. (about 10-15 minutes from each outlet)
7. Drain HOT water tank and flush water first through the open Hot water tank outlet for approximately 30minutes.
8. Close the Hot water tank drain line and flush the Hot water taps individually as before.
9. Replace all Point of use filters (on refrigerators, ice machines, whole building treatment systems, etc) before returning to normal usage.
10. Water is considered refreshed and ready for use when there is a 0.5 ppm (mg/L) Chlorine residual present at the farthest outlet from the building service. (i.e. Top Floor, cold water tap)
a. Chlorine test kits can be obtained to measure this residual. MAWC staff is available if there are questions or concerns (see contact information below).
b. Generally, the residual will be sufficient if you can smell the chlorine when the sample is taken away from the sink area, however, it is best to measure this residual rather than relying on subjective methods.
Please also remember to consider draining and refreshing any water in your building’s HVAC system. An HVAC expert should be consulted for this procedure.
Please Contact MAWC by text message at 724-953-9191 with any questions or concerns, and a Water Quality supervisor will return your inquiry.
EPA: Maintaining or Restoring Water Quality in Buildings with Low or No Use
Wolf Administration Provides Guidance for Buildings Closed During COVID-19
The Canadian Water and Wastewater Association has published this Fact Sheet for Building Owners/Operators.