Month: May 2020

How to safely flush plumbing systems and re-open facilities after shut-down

by Jeremy Overmann, Chemist & Water Treatment Specialist
ISTC Institutional Water Treatment services group

The domestic plumbing systems in any building or part of a building that has been shut down or has experienced reduced use due to COVID-19 policies are at risk for causing disease and death due to the effects of increased water age, including corrosion and growth of bacteria. Before re-opening any such building, take steps to minimize these risks and include consultation with a licensed plumber.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has a general guidance document for returning these systems to regular use. In Attachment B (Section II, Step 2. b), IDPH recommends setting the water heater to at least 120 degrees F prior to flushing the domestic hot water plumbing.

We recommend a higher temperature of at least 142 degrees F as this will kill Legionella bacteria in the heater within 30 minutes. However, do not use water at this temperature for flushing if the building’s drain waste vent (DWV) materials and/or plumbing system components cannot handle this higher temperature.

WARNING: 142 degree F water can cause third degree burns in seconds. Note that Legionella bacteria can continue to grow at temperatures up to 122 degrees F.

The Environmental Science Policy and Research Institute has written a useful guidance document, Reducing Risk to Staff Flushing Buildings, which offers best practices for flushing building water systems in a way that keeps facility staff safe.

Use the IDPH guidance in conjunction with your facility’s Legionella Water Management Program (WMP). If none exists, we recommend writing a remediation and/or recommissioning plan, then later developing a full WMP. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers a free training program on how to write a WMP and a toolkit to assist in developing a WMP.

Additional recommendations

Drinking Fountains: If these were shut off and/or not used for a period of time, they should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions before being used again for drinking.

Chlorine levels: The Illinois EPA requires a minimum of 0.5 parts per million Free Chlorine or 1.0 parts per million Total chlorine (also called Combined chlorine) in drinking water, unless a facility has been given an exemption (this is rare, but applies in some cases to facilities supplied with clean well water).

After re-opening, we recommend maintaining 142 degrees F or higher in all domestic water heaters and storage tanks, and 124 degrees F or higher in all recirculating domestic hot water systems for the purpose of reducing the risk of Legionnaire’s Disease. Note that delivered water at fixtures must meet local and state plumbing codes for maximum safe temperature to prevent scalding. The best way to achieve Legionella risk reduction and anti-scalding is to maintain high temperature in tanks and recirculating systems and employ thermostatic mixing valves just prior to point of use fixtures.

Finally, we recommend documenting all actions you take to prepare facilities for re-opening.

For more information

About the Institutional Water Treatment services group

The Institutional Water Treatment (IWT) services group, a unit of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois, provides unbiased, professional water treatment advice to facilities equipped with industrial water systems including cooling towers, chillers, boilers, etc. If you need assistance with addressing system start-up due to COVID-19 or other related services, including legionella monitoring, please contact Jeremy Overmann  or Mike Springman.

‘Carbon Cowboys’: Farmers thriving during COVID-19, thanks to regenerative grazing

Read the full story from Arizona State University.

A new documentary series that examines an innovative farming technique — one that is now positively affecting food supplies during the coronavirus epidemic — has been released by the award-winning environmental nonprofit Carbon Nation in collaboration with Arizona State University.

The documentary series of short films, called “Carbon Cowboys”, was shot over six years in rural communities in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. and presents farmers who have avoided bankruptcy by using regenerative grazing to produce more food from less land. 

Caltech Science Exchange

Caltech has launched a new web resource, the Caltech Science Exchange, dedicated to clear and credible explanations of high-profile science and engineering topics.

Through the Caltech Science Exchange, the Institute aims to help visitors make sense of scientific issues that capture public interest and attention, but often are the subject of confusion or controversy. The site currently features multimedia content explaining the science behind COVID-19 and other viral threats. New topics, including voting and elections, sustainability, earthquakes, and genetics, will be added in the months ahead.

Climate research universities unite to accelerate action

Read the full story from the International Universities Climate Alliance.

An International Universities Climate Alliance (‘Climate Alliance’) has been established to help communicate research insights on the most effective means to meet the unprecedented global challenge of climate change.

11 Ways To Upcycle a T-Shirt

Read the full story at Earth911.

How many T-shirts are in your drawers? It’s estimated that over 2 billion T-shirts are sold each year. T-shirts are a wardrobe staple for many people, but what happens to them when they don’t get worn any longer? You could always donate them to a thrift store, but their T-shirt shelves are overflowing and there isn’t much demand for used T-shirts. If you are a craft person, there are hundreds of fun upcycling projects that use T-shirts.

Cities find green ways to reduce storm floods

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

For more than a century, New Orleans has depended on canals and pumps to get rid of stormwater in a city where about half the land is below sea level.

Now the bustling Mississippi River port that expanded by filling in wetlands is spending $270 million to create spaces for rainwater, such as the water garden planned on a 25-acre site provided by nuns who lived there before Hurricane Katrina.

New cross-border project on quest for multifunctional robots

Read the full story in Future Farming.

In a new cross-border project called CIMAT, Belgian and Dutch universities, research institutes and robot and machine manufacturers aim at developing small scale multifunctional robots for sustainable and local food production.

Coronavirus cutbacks could reverse hard-fought equity gains in STEM workforce

Read the full story in Nature.

Female university staff have already lost more jobs, more paid hours, and more career opportunities than their male colleagues in Australia since the pandemic hit, according to a new report.

But there may be worse to come, because women are also 50% more likely to hold at-risk casual and short-term contract positions.

Rapid screening method targets fatty acids in yeast; Key to sustainable bioproducts

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Scientists engineering valuable microbes for renewable fuels and bioproducts have developed an efficient way to identify the most promising varieties. Researchers have developed a high-throughput screening technique to rapidly profile medium-chain fatty acids produced in yeast — part of a larger group of free fatty acids that are key components in essential nutrients, soaps, industrial chemicals, and fuels. The breakthrough will save researchers time and labor as they design sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based chemical manufacturing processes.

Big Oil loses appeal, climate suits go to California courts

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

Big Oil lost a pair of court battles Tuesday that could lead to trials in lawsuits by California cities and counties seeking damages for the impact of climate change.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by energy companies and ruled state courts are the proper forum for lawsuits alleging producers promoted petroleum as environmentally responsible when they knew it was contributing to drought, wildfires, and sea level rise associated with global warming.

The lawsuits claim Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and other companies created a public nuisance and should pay for damage from climate change and help build sea walls and other infrastructure to protect against future impact — construction that could cost tens of billions of dollars.

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