Pittsburgh, PA - As Pittsburgh businesses prepare to reopen, property owners may be readying their buildings for occupancy. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) would like to take this opportunity to remind our customers that the water quality in the pipes within their building may have degraded during vacancy causing unsafe conditions. Under normal operations, the regular use of water maintains water quality within the building plumbing. When not in use, the water becomes stagnant and could result in an increase in toxic metals from pipe corrosion, dissipation of disinfectant, or lack of maintenance of essential water system components.
A water management plan is an essential step in the process of reopening a business to employees and the public. Each building system is unique, and building owners may want to consult a professional to determine any necessary actions. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), the Environmental Science and Policy Research Institute (ESPRI), and the International Code Council (ICC) each offer guidance on how to lessen the risks associated with water systems within buildings that have been temporarily vacant.
According to the CDC, “Stagnant or standing water can cause conditions that increase the risk for growth and spread of Legionella and other biofilm-associated bacteria. When water is stagnant, hot water temperatures can decrease to the Legionella growth range (77–108°F, 25–42°C). Stagnant water can also lead to low or undetectable levels of disinfectant, such as chlorine. Ensure that your water system is safe to use after a prolonged shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water.”
PWSA is monitoring disinfectant levels and proactively flushing the public distribution system to maintain water quality for building systems. PWSA’s drinking water treatment protocol includes filtration and disinfection procedures that are effective in removing viruses. PWSA water is safe to drink and to use for personal hygiene activities.
Internal plumbing and building system questions can be directed to the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) Plumbing Division. Water treatment questions can be directed to PWSA.