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Legionella risk and unused facilities

Thursday, May 28, 2020Access Analytical

following is a re-post of a recent article on the IDEXX laboratories website.  This is very useful information for facilities managers who are dealing with reopening buildings in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.


The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted countless offices, hotels, businesses, and facilities to close globally. Man-made water systems once used on a regular basis have suddenly become dormant. As these buildings sit empty, their Legionella pneumophila risks increase. The bacteria species is more likely to grow and spread in systems with stagnant or standing water, creating potential breeding grounds for Legionnaires' disease in the process.

Environmental scientists caution that buildings with low or no occupancy face a higher risk for Legionella growth in their water systems. They urge building owners and managers to follow industry-accepted protocols for system shutdown and startup during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a water lab manager, you'll want to understand the water quality degradation issue in vacant buildings so you can better support your clients now and as they prepare for safe reopenings.


The connection between Legionella pneumophila contamination and water stagnation in building distribution systems is well-known. When buildings are used less frequently or shut down completely, water quality degradation becomes a silent but serious issue, warns the nonprofit Environmental Science, Policy & Research Institute (ESPRI) in a new brief called Building Water Quality and Coronavirus: Flushing Guidance for Periods of Low or No Use.

As building water systems go untouched, the disinfectant in the water dissipates and microorganisms grow on pipes, fixtures, and tanks. "Some of these [microorganisims] may cause disease if they are consumed or inhaled as droplets," the ESPRI explains. In addition, mechanical equipment like cooling towers, boilers, and pumps might not get routine maintenance, and backflow prevention devices could skip annual test cycles.

Similar risks are noted in a study by the Environmental Protection Agency that was published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology last year. In studying taps at residences and offices around the U.S., they found that Legionella pneumophilaLegionella pneumophila serogroup 1, and Mycobacterium avium occur sporadically. Water stagnation — which they define as increased water age, lack of movement, and lack of disinfection residual — within distribution systems can create niches where waterborne microorganisms flourish, the researchers explain. This can compromise the quality of water transported to taps, ultimately putting public health at risk.

"Biofilm formation within a structure is another factor that should be considered, as it relates to persistence, especially in large office buildings or vacation-only homes with opportunities for water stagnation where taps are occasionally not used for extended periods of time," the researchers write.


To protect public health, it's crucial for building owners and managers to safeguard their water systems from Legionella. In the U.S. and Europe, about 1 in 10 people who contract Legionnaires' disease will die from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID).

The ESCMID recently issued guidance for managing Legionella in building water systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. They identify several risk factors for Legionella growth, including:

  • Water temperatures between 77 F and 122 F (25 C and 50 C).
  • Poor system flow.
  • Certain plumbing materials.
  • Aerosol formation.

When restarting a system that's been closed or had the hot water shut off for more than one month, the ESCMID recommends monitoring temperatures and biocide levels, if applicable, for at least 48 hours before taking Legionella samples from the sentinel outlets. Microbiological samples taken too soon after disinfection could give false-negative results.

The ESPRI also offers recommendations on preparing buildings for re-occupancy. In buildings with at-risk populations, such as the elderly, the institute suggests sending water samples to a qualified lab for analysis. Flushing the entire building will help mitigate problems that emerged when water was stagnant, the guidance says. After flushing, additional water samples should be collected to determine whether these efforts were successful or should continue.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented public health challenges around the globe. You can support building managers and owners by helping to curb the spread of Legionnaires' disease. This two-step process starts by helping clients understand the risks surrounding stagnant water, then providing them with timely testing so they can reopen their buildings safely.

COVID-19 Update

Wednesday, April 15, 2020Access Analytical

March 19, 2020 

All Access Analytical Clients, Vendors & Associates:  

Access Analytical, Inc. is taking the threat associated with the COVID-19 / Coronavirus pandemic very seriously.  The safety of our employees and their families, our clients and our vendors is of utmost importance.  We want everyone to be aware of several new policies that are now in place at Access Analytical as we all work through this unusual situation. We are:  
  • Asking anyone with the slightest sign of illness to not enter our facility.  
  • We have posted instructions at our front entrance that if you are ill to leave samples at the side door.  We will retrieve them and send copies of any associated paperwork (completed COC’s) via email. 
  • Asking employees to stay home if they feel at all sick and have a fever. 
  • Limiting interactions within the facility by not having group meetings, etc.. 
  • Providing employees and customers who do enter the building with hand sanitizer and/or wipes for routine use. Implementing a policy that all routinely used door handles, keyboards, sample storage unit handles and other high touch surfaces be cleaned at least once daily using anti-microbial wipes or alcohol. 
  • Front lobby areas are cleaned more often. 
  • Providing employees with directions about handwashing and other preventative hygiene measures as outlined by the CDC guidance documents available.
  • Limiting client access to the facility.  Clients will only be allowed to step inside the front lobby and leave samples on a designated table just inside the door.  This table is routinely disinfected several times each day.  
  • Monitoring the CDC website daily for any updated guidance and following those recommendations as they are issued. 

Additionally, we are having regular management assessments about the situation and discussing how to best maintain business continuity under a variety of possible circumstances. We are also: 

  • Taking steps to allow for effective implementation of employees working from home should that become necessary. 
  • Ordering additional supplies so that our consumables stock on hand is plentiful and not at risk of being depleted should shortages occur.  

Be assured that we are making behind the scenes preparation to ensure continued operational ability of our laboratory.  It is our goal that services not be interrupted and everyone remains healthy and safe.  


Ashley Amick 
Access Analytical, Inc.

OSHA 8 Hour Training Class is Coming Up Fast!

Thursday, November 14, 2019Access Analytical

Please note that the Access Analytical 2019 OSHA 8 Hour Training Class is right around the corner!  We will be holding this years class at our usual location in the River Center at Saluda Shoals Park.  The class will be hold on Monday, November 25th.

If you have not signed up please let us know ASAP so we can provide the instructor with an accurate head count.  For those of you who have not attended before keep in mind that the class includes a full complimentary lunch.  This is also a great opportunity to do some networking with other environmental professionals in the area as the class is usually well attended.

If interested please contact us for more details about the event!

Thanksgiving Holidays

Thursday, November 14, 2019Access Analytical

Please note that Access Analytical offices will be closed on November 28th and 29th in observance of Thanksgiving.  Please contact us if you need to make any special arrangements for sampling.

We hope that you and your families have a wonderful holiday!  

Reducing the Risk of Legionnaires Disease in Hotels

Thursday, July 18, 2019Access Analytical

During the past several years there has been an increased focus on the need to monitor health and long term care facilities for Legionella contamination.  However, it is important to remember that any building with a complex water system can harbor this persistent bacteria.  Hotels in particular are at risk because they have complex systems and they often house guests for multiple days who shower and regularly use water.

Dan Broder with IDEXX laboratories has written an informative article that appeared in Lodging magazine.  The article outlines methods for reducing the risk of Legionnaires disease at a hotel facility.  Please see below

Five Ways to Reduce Legionnaires’ Disease Risk in Hotels 

By  Dan Broder, PhD   
February 27, 2018 

As cases of Legionnaires’ disease increase, reducing risk in hotel water systems is a priority for keeping guests safe. Luckily, nine out of 10 Legionnaires’ disease cases are preventable. Below are five simple ways to reduce the risk of a Legionnaires outbreak at a hotel. 

1. Test the hotel’s water management plan. 

To validate the effectiveness of a hotel’s water management plan, test it routinely. With ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188-2015, Legionella water management programs are now an industry standard for large buildings in the United States. Maintenance, renovations, and service interruptions can cause particularly hazardous conditions. Routine testing for Legionella pneumophila is the only way to determine if a water management plan is working. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “water sampling is critical to determining whether Legionnaires’ disease bacteria are present and at what levels. 

2. Request a test for Legionella pneumophila.  

A single species of Legionella bacteria, Legionella pneumophila is the primary cause of Legionnaires’ disease. This species is responsible for 99 percent of the outbreaks tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). World Health Organization (WHO) advisors also recommend testing for Legionella pneumophila, “not Legionella species, since this genus contains many species that do not cause illness.” By detecting Legionella pneumophila, hotels and water treaters can then respond appropriately. 

3. Rely on a culture test.  

Culture tests are the only reliable source of accurate quantification of Legionella. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) tests do not discriminate between live Legionella and bacteria that have already been controlled and are not a threat to people. Lateral flow antibody “field tests” only detect a single serotype of all possible Legionella pneumophila and have high false-negative results, often missing the pathogen completely. Tests should provide a confirmed culture result for all serogroups of L. pneumophila. 

4. Make sure results are accurate and reproducible.  

Routine testing for Legionella pneumophila is the best way to ensure water management plan is effective so swift action can be taken if needed. The Legiolert Test, for example, has been shown to deliver confirmed results in seven days, significantly faster than the 10 to 14 days for traditional culture tests. Unlike traditional plate methods, which require subjective counts of colonies on Petri plates, the Legiolert Test’s results are 99 percent repeatable and reproducible, according to data from IDEXX Laboratories. Consistent data helps hotels make high stakes decisions on potential water quality issues. 

5. Choose an accredited laboratory. 

ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188-2015 recommends using “a laboratory with demonstrated proficiency in the subject method, such as may be evidenced by certification by a national, regional, or local government agency or by an accredited non-governmental organization.” Laboratories that perform Legionella pneumophila testing with a method that is part of their accreditation and quality system demonstrate that their testing is performed at the highest level of quality. Accreditation also affords the best legal protection if testing results ever come under question. 

About the Author - Dan Broder, Ph.D. is a lead scientist at IDEXX Laboratories

Legionella...How Much Is Too Much??

Thursday, May 23, 2019Access Analytical

There are some questions that inevitably come up when testing both potable and non-potable water samples for Legionella.....It usually starts off with, "I got my test results back and there is Legionella present!"  And is followed up with,  "Is this bad?  How much is too much?  What do I need to do?"  

All of those are very good questions and sometimes the answers are a bit hard to come by.  In order to address these questions one has to look to the currently established OSHA guidelines for help.  Note that I said guidelines, not law, there is a major difference.  The only state that has established laws in place regarding Legionella contamination is the state of New York, every other state currently follows OSHA guidelines or may have established their own limits in a few cases.

According to OSHA the following limits should be used a guide for deciding on further action:

      Cooling Tower Water     
       Domestic Water           
  Humidifier / Vaporizer Water  

Action 1:  Prompt cleaning and/or biocide treatment of the system.
Action 2:  Immediate cleaning and/or biocide treatment.  Take prompt steps to prevent employee exposure.

*Note that Access Analytical reports results to 1 CFU per 100mls of sample as listed above.  Other labs 
may express results in different units of measurement.  

Mercury in the Environment

Wednesday, April 24, 2019Access Analytical

excerpt from SCDHEC article

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water and soil. Mercury exists in several forms: elemental (metallic); inorganic; and organic. Mercury cannot be created or destroyed. Some forms of mercury are more dangerous than others, but all are toxic. Exposure to mercury - even small amounts - may cause serious health problems.  

Mercury is released into the environment from many sources. Mercury becomes airborne when rocks erode, volcanoes erupt and soil decomposes. It then circulates in the atmosphere and is redistributed throughout the environment. Human activities, such as burning coal, oil and natural gas, burning household trash and mining, add mercury to the environment. Once in the air, mercury falls to the ground with rain and snow, landing on soil or water bodies and causing contamination. Many common products that we use every day contain mercury and may contaminate the environment when they are disposed of in trash, burned or poured down a drain.  Mercury also may enter water bodies through a direct release of industrial waste or municipal sewage. Mercury may enter the air when products containing mercury break and release vapors. 

Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States. Nationwide, they account for more than 40 percent of human-caused emissions according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. There are 5 coal-burning power plants in South Carolina that emit mercury. Another 219 Title V (major source) facilities also emit mercury.  Mercury also can be released into the environment when older vehicles are crushed, shredded or melted in steel furnaces. The mercury is from hood and trunk light switches. Vehicles manufactured after 2003 do not contain mercury switches. Mercury emissions from steel furnaces, thought to result primarily from these mercury switches, are more than 10 percent of the total mercury emissions in the nation.  

Please contact us if you have questions or concerns regarding Mercury contamination at your location.


Wednesday, March 06, 2019Access Analytical

What is PFAS—and Why Should You Care? (the following is an excerpt from a story found in the EPA online website, a link to the full article is included at the end of this post)

Doctors and health gurus are always telling us to drink more water for our health—but what if that water is contaminated by a potentially toxic chemical?  In 2016, dozens of communities across the country were hit with unsettling news: PFASs had been found in their drinking water.  A study of groundwater across the country found these chemicals in drinking water in 27 states, impacting 6 million Americans. Many of these communities are near military bases, airports, and industrial sites.  If you are in one of the affected areas, how concerned should you be?  Here's what we do—and don't—know about these unfamiliar substances lurking in the water.

P-What?  So, what's a PFAS? 

PFAS is an abbreviation for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and it's not just a single chemical.  PFASs encompass a whole family of manmade chemicals that contain a carbon and fluorine atom backbone. There are hundreds of known PFAS compounds with varying functional groups, which can include other elements such as oxygen, hydrogen, or sulfur.  PFAS compounds came into common use in the 1950s and '60s and are now used in hundreds of industrial processes and consumer products. They are considered useful because they are resistant to heat, water, and oil.  Consumers may be exposed to PFASs in non-stick cookware, grease-resistant paper, fast food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, water-resistant clothing, cleaning products, and personal care products.  PFASs are also used in industrial processes and, notably, in firefighting foams. PFASs are a component of many of the firefighting foams used by the military, airport authorities, and local fire and rescue agencies. It is these foams that are most often implicated when PFAS is found in groundwater or in the environment.  The problem is that PFAS chemicals do not occur in nature, and some of them take a very long time to break down in the environment. Our bodies don't do a good job of breaking them down, either, so they have the potential to build up in the organs and tissues of humans and animals.  

We feel that PFAS contamination is an emerging concern that those in the water industry will be hearing much more about in the coming months and years.  Please note that Access Analytical will be happy to assist you with any PFAS testing requirements you might have.  If you need to collect samples please contact our office at:  info@axs-inc.com or at 803-781-4243.

Access now offers online payment options to clients

Wednesday, January 23, 2019Access Analytical

Customers asked and we listened! 

Access Analytical is pleased to announce the implementation of online bill payment options for invoices.  Any Access Analytical invoices received via email from today forward will include a clickable payment link.  Clicking on this link will take you to a payment screen in which credit card or bank routing information can be entered and payment made via secure server.  Clients also have the option of saving this information to make future payments faster and more convenient.  We accept payment from all major credit cards as well as via bank transfer.  We hope you will find this to be a useful feature that saves time and makes payment easier than ever!  

Please contact us at 803-781-4243 if you have any questions at all.

Access adds Legionella Testing to in-house capabilities

Thursday, December 07, 2017Access Analytical

Legionella is a type of bacterium found naturally in freshwater environments such as lakes and streams.  Legionella can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made and/or potable water systems.   The Legionella bacterium can cause Legionnaires’ disease or a less serious illness known as Pontiac fever.  These illnesses are collectively known as legionellosis. 

Access Analytical utilizes the IDEXX laboratories Legiolert test method to rapidly detect Legionella in both potable and non-potable water samples.  This method is applicable for use in routine monitoring of health care facilities.   Please contact Access Analytical  if you have questions about setting up a preventative testing program at your facility.