Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting business closures, hundreds of buildings have gone unused or unoccupied for long periods of time. These buildings include schools, businesses/offices, restaurants, bars, and retail establishments. While there currently is no evidence that the virus can spread through drinking water, the fact that these buildings have been closed and the pipes unused for so long poses other issues. Stagnant water conditions can cause corrosion, accumulation of microorganisms, toxins, and heavy metals, and can “accelerate the growth of other pathogens or accelerate the growth of non-pathogenic microorganisms that lead to fouling, bad tastes or odors.”

This article from Water Quality Products Magazine recommends plans for water treatment professionals and buildings owners/managers to address this particular issue that arose from buildings going unused for weeks or months at a time. This plan includes evaluating the buildings to find out if portions of the buildings were used and therefore received adequate flushing through the pipes; communicating with local authorities to see if additional disinfectant can be used temporarily in the water before the buildings go back into use; and working with the building owners and relevant professionals to determine the best way to start flushing the system before the buildings go back online.

After the initial flushing process, filters and membrane modules and other such devices may need to be checked, serviced, cleaned, and/or replaced.

In addition to the precautions taken to ensure water quality when these buildings are reoccupied and used once again, all of the professionals and workers involved in the process should be cognizant of the health and safety precautions required to keep themselves, building users, and customers protected from the spread of COVID-19. The CDC’s guidelines on how to protect yourself and others can be found here.

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