As a Pittsburgh based small business you probably never thought about closing your business and then reopening it.  It looks like we are headed to that time when reopening is something that needs to be planned for.

The scientists and engineers at the Environmental Science, Policy & Research Institute (ESPRI) and AH Environmental Consultants, Inc. (AH) developed guidance material for small business owners to use and we are free to distribute that so here is a link to the document.  But we know you are busy with other things right now and here is a summary of the contents.

What are the risks to look at?

Plumbing, heating and cooling systems are not mean to be shut down.  This is especially true of plumbing, which even if not shot off, is shut off though lack of use fo all intents and purposes. The building water system begins at the meter where water enters the building and includes all plumbing, storage, and fixtures to each distal tap. Here are some considerations:

    • When the water was not used, the disinfectant in the water dissipated. Without the disinfectant, microorganisms grew on pipes, fixtures, and tanks. Some of these may cause disease if they are consumed or inhaled as droplets (particularly while showering). 
    • The protective scale on pipes could have destabilized causing toxic metals like lead can dissolve or shear off and end up in water used for drinking or food preparation. 
    • Potentially harmful substances such as disinfection byproducts (DBPs) built up. 
    • Mechanical equipment such as cooling towers, boilers and pumps may not have received any routine maintenance. Backflow preventers may have missed annual test cycles. 

What should I do with my Business Plumbing to be safe?

The best thing that you can do to start out is to flush the entire system. You should do that right now so that any deterioration is stopped or at least a new problem identified – Don’t wait until everyone is trying to open t the same time – if you need us to help now it is easier to get in front of this than when five other businesses are doing the same thing for every plumber available.  Make sure you also drain and use and water filtration systems and dishwashers.

Parts of the water system that are most important to flush because they have the greatest opportunity to make people sick include:

    • faucets used for drinking water or food preparation,
    • drinking fountains,
    • ice machines and refrigerators with ice makers,
    • showers,
    • kitchen sink sprayers,
    • water features that generate aerosols (fountains, spas, etc.),
    • parts of the water system that are used by children,
    • components of the water system used by elderly people and susceptible people.

Want more information?

If you have a home that you are reopening or a small business that needs to be opened the American Water Works Association (AWWA) posted recommendations for returning homes to service (as of April, 3, 2020).   and this short post was created from the material from the scientists and engineers at the Environmental Science, Policy & Research Institute (ESPRI) and AH Environmental Consultants, Inc. (AH) developed this brief guidance material to help those who are responsible for maintaining building water systems.  The full report is available here.

Contact Us

Your health, safety, and peace of mind are our top priority. If you have any questions or concerns regarding reopening your building or home, please call our office at (412) 461-2198.  Or contact us online. We wish you well and look forward to serving you.  Thank you.

 

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