The Importance of a Legionella Maintenance Program in Cooling Towers

Closed due to Legionella

Two recent events in Atlanta, Georgia, underscores the importance of following a maintenance program for cooling towers to prevent the development of Legionella.

The first outbreak of Legionella happened at the Sheraton Atlanta in July of 2019. Six months later, more than 50 claims filed against the hotel prompted the parent company to file a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court. Attorney Jeffrey Diamond said, “It’s a type of a lawsuit called declaratory judgment in which the parties to an insurance policy-the insureds and the insurance companies- are going to litigate whether or not there is coverage for the claims of the people who are alleged to have been injured by the Legionella outbreak.”

In early August of 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closed several of its building located in Atlanta because a team of inspectors discovered Legionella bacteria in the water system. The bacteria most likely grew during the extended Coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

The CDC issued a statement that read, “During the recent closures at our leased space in Atlanta, working through the General Services Administration (GSA), CDC directed the landlord to take protective actions. Despite their best efforts, CDC has been notified that Legionella, which can cause ‘Legionnaires’ Disease, is present in some water sources in the buildings.” Since discovering the bacteria, the CDC shut down the facilities until the remediation project concludes.

What is ‘Legionnaires’ Disease?

A group of research biologists found Legionella bacteria among many attendees at a 1976 convention held in Philadelphia. The bacteria collect to create ‘Legionnaires’ disease, which patients contract by breathing water vapors that contain the bacteria. People over the age of 50, especially those with underlying lung problems, are the most vulnerable to the disease. Severe symptoms include the inability to breathe correctly, with around 15 percent of cases resulting in death. Other symptoms of the disease are acute fatigue and a persistent cough.

Cooling Towers and ‘Legionnaires’ Disease

What is the direct connection between legionnaires’ disease and a cooling tower? The answer lies in understanding cooling towers, as well as cooling tower maintenance.

Cooling towers operate as a part of an HVAC or process cooling system, typically for industrial infrastructures. Considered cost-effective and energy-efficient cooling centers operate in buildings that include schools, hospitals, industrial plants, and office buildings. Because they hold large quantities of water, cooling towers can produce Legionella bacteria if the systems do not receive regularly scheduled maintenance and have ineffective water treatment programs.

Maintenance Tips to Prevent Legionella Growth in Cooling Towers

Because of the large size, cooling towers are considered difficult to clean. However, to prevent the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease withing cooling towers, you should follow a few tips for cooling tower maintenance.

Conduct Monthly Inspections

Inspecting cooling towers at least once a month helps identify areas where scale, biofilm, and sediment buildup occur. These are hotspots for Legionella to flourish. During the warmer months of the year, consider changing to a bi-weekly schedule of cooling tower maintenance.

Clean Basin Surfaces

Cleaning the basin of a cooling tower eliminates the places where harmful bacteria grow. Although basin cleaning can be a part of the monthly maintenance schedule, preventing the growth of Legionella requires a thorough basin cleaning at least once every two weeks. Attaching a powerful water filter can prevent the development of harmful slime.

Treat the Water

Contracting with a certified water treatment company should keep the water flowing through a cooling tower in pristine condition. Treatments like biocides can prevent the production of dangerous Legionella bacteria. Look at a water treatment program as one part of your cooling tower maintenance program, not a strategy that you should depend on by itself to prevent the outbreak of ‘Legionnaires’ disease.

Proper Sump Water Temperature

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) provides several recommendations on how to prevent Legionnaires’ disease in cooling towers. Perhaps the most crucial advice is to keep the temperature of the sump water below 68 degrees Fahrenheit at all times.

Remove Stagnant Water

Stagnant water represents the ideal spot for bacteria, such as Legionella, to grow. By conducting dead leg and side-arm piping, you should eliminate stagnant water from a cooling tower.

Reduce the Drift Rate

A contaminated mist that forms within a cooling tower can enter the respiratory system of anyone sitting or standing next to a cooling tower. Using a mist eliminator should be a priority on your cooling tower maintenance list.

Clean the Fill

Cleaning the fill not only eliminates scale and slime, but it also enhances the flow of water inside a cooling tower. Control the growth of mold and bacteria such as Legionella by cleaning a cooling tower fill at least once a month.

Disinfect the Surfaces

Once surfaces have been cleaned, consider disinfecting with an EPA registered antimicrobial product, labeled explicitly for HVAC use. This can help keep microorganisms from flourishing between cleaning cycles.

Two more tips to complete the list of tasks for cooling tower maintenance. First, always wear protective equipment when cleaning a system to prevent the breathing of harmful Legionella bacteria. Second, always keep records of completed maintenance on cooling towers.

The Bottom Line

The two outbreaks of Legionella bacteria emphasize the importance of implementing preventive maintenance techniques on water systems, especially the vital water system component called cooling towers. A cooling tower maintenance product like the CTV-1501 and BioSpray Tower can prevent Legionella bacteria from tarnishing your ‘company’s hard-earned positive reputation.

CTV-1501 Towervac® Cooling Tower Vacuum eliminates bacteria like Legionella. The powerful suction of the vacuum removes mud, slime, and algae, which are contaminants that allow Legionella to flourish. You do not have to drain the entire water system, which saves time and prevents water loss.

As a complementary tool to prevent the development of Legionella bacteria, the BioSpray Tower works well on non-porous surfaces. The disinfectant kills 99.9% of the Legionella that develops in cooling towers.

 

Next Steps:

Find your perfect solution with our Complete Cooling Tower Maintenance Solutions from Goodway

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The Importance of Air Quality in the Classroom

Classroom IAQ

Student filled hallways are right around the corner. Normally, this time of year means schoolyards filled with happy, playing kids, ready to begin a new school year with old friends and new…

But of course, we all know by now that 2020 is no normal year.

Instead of happy kids filing into the classroom, this year’s students are starting school with the lingering fear of COVID-19. Students, parents, and teachers are venturing into a unique educational experience, with distance learning and new classroom protocols changing everyone’s routine. And even these new protocols could change at any moment; earlier this month, a Georgia high school that had planned to proceed with in-person instruction was forced to close after students and staff tested positive for the coronavirus.

If your child’s school is currently teaching online, it may feel like this bizarre education system will never go away. Rest assured, things will return to normal – but when they do, we all will be a little more cautious about the world around us.

Hygiene tips like thorough hand washing and avoiding large groups are already becoming common knowledge, and (given that we all know the coronavirus can linger in the air) it’s only natural that air quality will become a greater cause for concern in the post-COVID world. Therefore, Facility managers of schools will need to start paying attention to the air quality in their schools.

Why Air Quality Matters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has long been talking about the importance of indoor air quality, otherwise known as IAQ. Most of us spend much of our time indoors, be it at school, in the office, or in our own homes. While we may feel safe and comfortable in these spaces, they harbor an unfortunate secret: indoor air quality is over 2-5 times more polluted than the air outside!

When there are too many pollutants in an indoor space, people can experience adverse health effects. In fact, conditions like cough, eye irritation, and even Legionnaire’s disease can be attributed to poor air quality.

IAQ is particularly important in the classroom setting. Children spend an average of 1,000 hours in the classroom each year. In that time, they can breathe in a horrifying number of pollutants and volatile organic compounds. Air pollutants can trigger short-term health problems like headaches, coughs, and allergies, as well as chronic conditions like asthma, which affects 1 in 13 children today.

In addition to the health problems that come along with poor air quality, research shows that IAQ has a direct impact on our students’ academics. A 2015 Harvard study found that office workers scored higher on cognitive function tests when they were tested in environments with better IAQ. This study suggests that poor air quality is literally dampening our cognitive abilities! If you want students to perform at their very best, their classrooms absolutely must have clean air.

This body of evidence should be enough to convince everyone that IAQ is important, but the need becomes even more immediate when we factor in COVID-19. While the jury is still out on whether aerosol transmission (tiny particles of the virus that hang in the air after an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks) can cause a COVID-19 infection, it is clear that this form of transmission is something we should protect against. After all, countless other viruses – measles, influenza, and COVID-19’s cousin SARS – have been proven to spread through HVAC systems and indoor air. Protecting our students and school staff means making our indoor air quality a top priority.

If a classroom has good indoor air quality, the students will be less likely to get sick, more likely to be safe from COVID-19, and have greater cognitive function overall. The answer is clear: schools MUST work to improve their IAQ.

What Determines Your School’s Air Quality?

Before you can improve the air quality in your school or classroom, you have to understand the factors that contribute to poor air quality. There are some factors that aren’t easy to control, such as:

  • Outdoor pollution
  • Pet dander brought in by students/staff
  • Nanoparticles from shampoos, disinfectants, lotions, etc.

Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to keep all pollutants out of your classroom. However, you can control the one factor that has the greatest impact on IAQ: your classroom’s ventilation.

Many classrooms today operate out of old buildings that allow for little air exchange with the outside world. As a result, the air in the classroom is poorly ventilated, allowing mold, mildew, and other nasty particles to grow throughout the ductwork. The best way to improve a classroom’s overall air quality is to clean out the ducts and maintain the building’s HVAC system, as this will keep the school nicely ventilated with clean air.

Improve IAQ in Your School

So, how do you go about cleaning a school’s air ducts? There are three main ways to sanitize your HVAC systems and get your vents looking like new.

1. Vacuum Your Ducts

Too often, dust and debris (such as particles from outside) settle in your air ducts, contaminating the air in your classroom forever after. The best way to get rid of these pollutants is with a good vacuuming. This process requires two types of vacuums:

  • A negative air machine, which cleans the ducts while preventing contamination of the space
  • A portable HEPA vacuum, which clean small surfaces like coils, drips pans, and other areas

Attach the negative air machine directly to your air duct and use it to remove the bulk of the dust from the duct. Then, clean up any residual debris with the HEPA vacuum. Just like that, your dust will be dust-free.

2. Kill Mold in the Venting System

If your HVAC system has mold or mildew, you may need a duct fogger to wipe out all that nasty growth. Foggers atomize a chemical (such as a mold control product) and spray it throughout your air ducts, allowing it to reach every corner and effectively kill any mold or mildew in your ductwork. Of course, if you do want to clean your classroom air ducts with a fogger, make sure you pick up a heavy-duty machine, like our AQ-FG Portable Chemical Fogger.

3. Use Safe Chemicals to Eliminate Contaminants

Once your air ducts are completely clean, you’ll want to make sure they stay that way. To do this, you’ll need to apply some chemicals that keep mildew, bacteria, and other microorganisms from growing.

According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), there are a variety of chemicals that can be used to clean HVAC systems. These include sanitizers, fungicides, and various detergents. However, it is important to remember that some people may be particularly sensitive to certain chemicals. If you’re using a chemical to clean your classroom, always check your chemical labels to ensure the product is safe for use around children. Like our BIOSPRAY-TOWER is an EPA registered disinfectant kills 99.9% of Legionella pneumophila and germs when correctly applied to hard, nonporous surfaces.

With the right tools and a little know-how, you can ensure that your classroom’s air ducts are clean and ready for your next class. And best of all, investing in your classroom air quality will ultimately help your students improve their health and their academic performance.

 

Next Steps:

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3D Printers: Danger In The Dust

3D Printer

By now, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard and read about 3D printing. Maybe it’s the neighbor down the road making little parts with their system, or you’ve seen a YouTube video on how it works, or perhaps you’ve heard of it in manufacturing rapid prototyping.  Well, 3D printing is all of that and more and is one of the fastest-growing areas in global manufacturing. 

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, has been gaining traction over the past decade as a preferred method of part and product production for both hobbyists and industrial manufacturing companies. It is a very cost-effective way to rapidly produce both simple and complex shapes in a prototyping environment. The materials used range from flexible to rigid and from metals to plastics, with new materials created regularly. 3D printing has given inventors and engineers the ability to move through concepts to create a finalized product in a fraction of the time. In years past, prototyping may have included developing expensive wooden models, or handcrafted resin versions. However, 3D printing is proving to be a more cost-effective method for low-volume manufacturing than standard molding practices, and the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can make as there are many shapes you can make on a 3D printer that would not be feasible to make otherwise. 

The Three Most Common 3D Printing Methods: 

  • FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling): melted plastic is extruded through a hot nozzle to create very thin layers that are printed one at a time to create a 3D print.
  • SLA (Stereolithography): the part is created by an ultraviolet laser that draws each printed layer in a bath of liquid thermoset resin that solidifies once the laser hits it. The build plate recedes further into the liquid bath to create room for the next layer to be printed. 
  • SLS (Selective Laser Sintering): the part is created by a high-power laser that sinters either powdered metal or plastics together. The build plate recedes further into the liquid bath to create room for the next layer to be printed. 

The Dangers in 3D Printing

As promising and safe as this technology sounds, there are still some inherent dangers, with the largest being dust explosions. All 3D printing methods produce dust and other small particles that can become airborne quickly, and remain airborne for some amount of time.

Many materials are combustible that may not seem like it at first, such as metals and some plastics, but when those materials are small enough, it does not take a lot to cause them to ignite. For any sort of combustion to take place, there needs to be a fuel source, an ignition source, and oxygen, all of which are often very present in a manufacturing environment. To become explosive, a cloud of dust and some sort of confinement of that dust need to be present. One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of a dust explosion is using a dust collection system that recirculates the air through filters specifically designed to remove dust. By removing the dust, you have eliminated the fuel source for a dust explosion to take place.

Additionally, and most importantly, is to eliminate the risk of open electrical sparking or exposed electrical current. This is generally accomplished by using specific industrial vacuum systems that remove static and is certified for use with hazardous and explosive materials. In the USA, businesses use the National Electric Code (NEC) designations to identify what systems are approved for what type of flammable materials. It is best to familiarize yourself and your safety personnel with these NEC codes before investigating your specific vacuum options.   Goodway Technologies offers a quick review of NEC codes that you can refer to here and a variety of wet and dry industrial vacuums certified for hazardous and flammable material pickup, in electric and air-powered models.

Powderpart Inc. Dust Explosion of 2013

To give an example of a dust explosion that has happened in an additive manufacturing facility, we will look at the Powderpart Inc. dust explosion in 2013. This dust explosion resulted in the third-degree burn of an employee, and one willful and nine serious violations of workplace safety standards. This explosion occurred due to several reasons including ignoring manufacturer safety instructions, locating ignition and fuel sources too close together, unsuitable electrical equipment and wiring for a high explosion risk location, lack of employee training in explosion dangers, and general lack of awareness of the risks at hand. Accidents usually happen when several mistakes are made, so it is essential to make sure that safety standards are being adhered to. Make sure to identify all hazards, train all personnel in the dangers present, and that danger is identified correctly.

Additive manufacturing has opened a whole new world of possibilities for the manufacturing industry. Still, like all manufacturing, there are risks involved, and it is essential to take the necessary steps to reduce the likelihood of those risks coming to light.  Explosion-proof vacuums can play a big part in providing a safer environment for additive manufacturing. It is also essential to listen to manufacturer recommendations, especially when concerning safety and follow all OSHA guidelines to create a safe working environment for the employees in the additive manufacturing industry.

 

Next Steps:

Check out Goodway Explosion Proof Vacuums.

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Keeping Your Cargo Safe: Refrigeration Plant Maintenance On Marine Vessels

Cargo Ships

The continuous use of refrigeration plants on a marine vessel carrying perishable food makes it one of the most important systems on the ship. The refrigeration plant supplies cooling to various parts of the ship, most importantly this includes maintaining the climate conditions of whatever cargo the ship is transporting. As a lifeline for all perishable food items, temperature-sensitive cargo, and personnel, the refrigeration plant is one of the most important systems on a ship. 

When away from the port, marine vessels are isolated, self-servicing floating businesses, and have to have great any maintenance crews. The great isolation and distance from the port reinforce the need for proper maintenance and upkeep of critical systems on the ship when is in port, but also having on-board expertise when on a voyage.

The Nature of a Marine Refrigeration Plant 

As mentioned before, the main purpose of the refrigeration plant is to avoid any spoilage or damage that could occur to the perishable cargo on the ship. Properly maintained climate levels on a ship prevent the growth of microorganisms, oxidation, fermentation, and drying out of cargo. 

Refrigeration plants have multiple important components, all vital to maintaining performance. Some of these components are simple to replace en route, while others are more complicated and require port-based maintenance. Depending on your system configuration, maintaining components like evaporator coils or air handler coils can help keep systems operational, longer. Using proper technology to clean air handler coils, refrigeration coils, and condenser coils can help keep system head pressure within specifications and increase system efficiency. 

Cleaning and Maintaining the Components of a Refrigeration Plant

Crew and customers both rely on the dependability and functionality of the ship’s refrigeration plant. Without a well-maintained refrigeration plant, the rest of the ship is unable to perform its main function of transporting its cargo. 

Ships may rarely stay at a dock for a long enough period of time for engineers to fully service and maintain the health of the refrigeration plant. Ship engineers need to fully understand the movement schedule of a ship so that they can best plan the overall maintenance of the refrigeration plant. A common practice of ship engineers is to conduct all of their routine maintenance nearly every day at sea. Engineers save the in-depth maintenance overhauls and part replacement for the docking periods of a ship, where access to additional resources is available. 

With such a small window to conduct refrigeration plant maintenance, it is vitally important that ship engineers make the time that they have to conduct maintenance count. Proper cleaning and maintenance equipment increase the effectiveness of maintenance efforts. The key equipment to have for refrigeration plant maintenance includes coil cleaning systems and chemicals, tube cleaning systems, chemical descalers, industrial pressure washers, and surface sanitation systems. This equipment should be paired with a comprehensive maintenance plane that is also in sync with the docking schedule for the ship. 

Goodway’s experts are also on standby ready to answer any questions about marine refrigeration plant maintenance. The best refrigeration maintenance plans fully consider the port and at sea dates of the ship, and utilize this time to conduct the major cleaning, maintenance, and performance checks. Routine maintenance can be completed easily and quickly daily with numerous Goodway products that maintain the operational health of the refrigeration plant. 

 

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Assessing the Indoor Health of Your Building

Indoor air quality is one of the most important characteristics that describe the health of a building and the corresponding health of its inhabitants. People now spend more of their time inside than at any other time in history, and it is vitally important that the indoor air that they breath meet a standard quality that does not compromise their health, productivity, or sense of well-being.

Facility managers and owners are responsible for the health of their buildings and responsible for exposing their inhabitants to safe conditions. Never has the importance of keeping the air they “manufacture” so vital. Organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency recognize the importance of indoor air quality and the overall health of buildings, as well as the need to create standards for buildings in order to prevent “sick buildings” from existing. To fill this need, the EPA conducted the Building Assessment Survey and Evaluation (BASE) Study, which took in data from public and commercial buildings across the United States to create a set of standards to analyze the health of buildings.  

The BASE Study 

To conduct the BASE Study, the EPA collected data that focused on three major areas of indoor air quality. These areas are:

  1. Environmental and comfort measurements
  2. Building and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems characterization
  3. Building occupant demographics, symptoms, and perceptions 

The study collected data from 100 randomly selected buildings in 37 cities and 25 states. It then created a composite database of survey data to characterize the indoor air quality conditions across the United States. 

Whole Building Physical Characteristics

The entire BASE report summarizes the data is collected across two major characteristics. These characteristics were: whole building physical characteristics and whole building pollutant sources. 

The whole building’s physical characteristics data considered multiple different building features and attributes that would contribute to the understanding of the current conditions of air quality inside buildings in the United States. Building age was the first attribute considered and it varied across a wide spectrum from buildings built before 1900 to those constructed in the 1990s. The majority of BASE studied buildings were constructed in the 1980s. 

Building size, to include representative statistics like the number of total occupants were collected, as was the square footage of each building to include physical footprint square footage and floor area. An additional consideration as part of the physical characteristics was the number of stories in the building, with the majority of buildings being 10 stories or less. 

A final statistic considered for the physical characteristics of a building was the number of operable windows in the building. Operable windows are important to indoor air quality management as they can provide an additional means of ventilation that removes load requirements from HVAC equipment. However, facility managers need to make sure that outside systems are operating well. For example, dirty cooling towers can harbor dangerous bacteria, and if left uncleaned and maintained can infect the very air being brought back into the building via natural venting. 

Whole Building Pollutant Sources

Each building in the BASE study had information collected that quantified the number of potential polluting sources that could have an impact on the building in terms of indoor air quality. The polluting sources tracked were specialty use spaces, water damaged areas, fire damage areas, and pest control areas. 

Information was also collected on the HVAC systems in each building, specifically, the HVAC strategy was recorded for each subject. The HVAC strategy of a building encompasses its ventilation strategy, building cooling system strategy, and building heating system strategy. 

The final aspect of the whole building analysis conducted was on the environmental parameters inside the building, specifically focusing on the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Volatile organic compounds are chemical compounds that make up most of the indoor products and material coatings that exist in buildings. Some volatile organic compounds can be dangerous at certain concentrations and need to be monitored by facility managers. 

Who is at Risk in an Unhealthy Building?

Facility managers and building managers should be concerned about the well-being of all their occupants, but some building occupants could be more susceptible than others. Children in particular experience higher rates of exposures than adults do inside “sick buildings.” Children breathe in more air per pound of body weight than most adults, and so might be inhaling indoor air contaminants at a higher rate than adults. The immune systems of children are also not necessarily as developed as those in adults, and so infants are particularly more susceptible to the adverse effects of poor air quality. Age, nutrition, metabolism, exposure levels, pre-existing conditions, and other adverse health factors can also make an individual more susceptible to the indoor air quality inside a “sick building.”

What is the Cost of an Unhealthy Building?

Unhealthy buildings not only have a societal impact on the health of occupants, but they also can impact the bottom line of building owners and business owners operating inside the building. Without proper maintenance and monitoring, an unhealthy building allowed to operate continually in poor condition can have significant costs in energy usage, maintenance downtime, and financial loss due to equipment replacement and productivity losses. Want another consideration? Legal risks to building owners.

Solutions for Preventative Maintenance to Improve the Health of a Building

There are simple solutions and maintenance management plans that can be instituted inside a building to improve and stabilize the indoor air quality. Goodway has numerous products and suggestions for managing the interior environment of buildings. 

Buildings need to be kept dry, clean, and well ventilated to maintain an environment of fresh, safe air and to reduce the presence of polluting materials or chemicals in the building. The BASE Study highlights numerous factors that buildings in its study had which contributed to poor building health. Keeping a building safe, free of contaminants, and pest free are simple ways to avoid some of the pitfalls of poor maintenance and “sick buildings.” 

Goodway has numerous product guides and management plans available, along with experienced professionals ready to provide expert advice on its website. Preventative maintenance is one of the best methods for maintaining a healthy building, and facility managers can turn to Goodway for best practices and assistance in achieving this goal. 

 

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