Water fountains and Legionella

I recently stayed in a hotel that had a water fountain just outside the front entrance. It was a very windy day and the water was spraying outside of the water fountain basin. The basin of the fountain was very green as you can see from this photograph.

I felt it my duty to discuss this with the hotel reception as in my opinion it represented a potential Legionella risk.

The water was very green and cloudy, so much so you couldn’t see the bottom of the basin. The fountain was working as the pump culd not be switched off due to a fault. It must have been like this for some time judging by the water condition.

I had walked from the carpark and when I saw this I decided to walk upwind of the fountain to get to the reception!

This might sound like scare mongering but there are numerous cases of people catching Legionnaires’ disease from a water fountain. For example in 2012 at a Chicago hotel 114 people fell ill, 11 with Legionnaires’ disease and 74 with Pontiac Fever after spending time near the water feature!

In New Zealand in 2004 5 water features tested positive for Legionella bacteria and a Google search will quickly find many other examples of water features and Legionella bacteria.

It is important therefore to manage the water feature in a way that minimises the potential for Legionella bacteria to proliferate. This will involve treating it as you would a swimming pool or cooling tower in that you should regularly clean it, use biocides and consider filtration as a means of controlling the risk.

In the UK HSG 274 Part 3 covers managing “other risk systems” which would include water features such as this one at the hotel. So the first requirement would be a risk assessment to be carried out on the water feature. In the case of this particular water feature it became apparent that there was a fault with the recirculating pump as it couldn’t be switched off. This is an immediate problem and one that the hotel’s Responsible Person should have addressed and not allowed it to get to this problematic.

It seems that water features look nice (sometimes) but can easily be forgotten about which is when the risks increase.

If you have any water source with an “engineered” aspect to it, for example a pump immersed in the water, with an aerosol being created then L8 and HSG 274 will cover your water feature and so you should manage it accordingly.

I have not yet fallen ill, and neither has my wife, so our simple risk management strategy of walking upwind may have been sufficint to protect us but then we are aware of the potential, not all the guests may be so informed.

If you have a water feature and want to know how to manage it then contact Collaton Consultancy Limited for advice.

Collaton Consultancy Limited are expert Legionella consultants working for both water treatment companies and end users alike, Expert Witness services are also offered should a legal case arise. If you have any specific issues relating to the above you would like help with then contact Collaton Consultancy Limited

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