Ohio has a water warning for reopening businesses

Stagnant water can lead to problems

Business owners, take heed: Months of not flushing can lead to serious problems.

As offices, businesses and hospital wings gradually reopen, people need to be aware of possible water issues — not using a business plumbing system for an extended period of time can cause issues.

The Ohio Department of Health recently warned businesses of the problem, saying, “stagnation of potable water within plumbing can lead to deterioration of the water quality, including loss of disinfectant residual, microbial growth, accumulation of sediments and metals, and increased disinfection byproduct formation.”

Ken Elrich, founder of Solid Blend Water Management Solutions, has some thoughts about this. His Englewood-based business maintains commercial and hospital water systems.

“The water sitting in that building loses the disinfectant, which allow microbes to start growing,” Elrich said. “It starts to allow lead to leach out of the pipe, it allows copper to leach out of the piping systems.”

“That’s some nasty water,” he added. “It’s very hazardous water.”

For a time, nobody was talking about the specter of water stagnation in buildings — except Solid Blend, which started warning clients in mid-March to put the issue on their radar.

At the time, offices were just starting to close as fears of the COVID-19 pandemic intensified.

“This is very typical,” Elrich said. “When you think about schools that close down for the summer … this isn’t new for them.”

At some hospitals in the Dayton area, facilities managers were being furloughed, Elrich added. “That wasn’t the priority at all.”

“They were just trying to maintain what they had with limited staff,” he said. “COVID-19 was the primary focus.”

Elrich declined to name any local customers, but he said that when there is hospital construction, Solid Blend is often brought in to help. Elrich and his crew of about 20 employees have worked with businesses across Ohio.

Solid Blend also helped the Ohio Department of Health formulate its own water warnings. The state reached out to a variety of businesses for guidance on how businesses should reopen buildings.

“They wanted to make sure these buildings were safe,” Elrich said. “We worked with them.”

Rebecca Fugitt, assistant chief for bureau of environmental health with the Ohio Department of Health, said the department began to realize that “as buildings started to open up, that we had a concern from a public health perspective about the stagnation of water in those lines.”

With the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the department worked on guidance for businesses and facility managers.

Even if buildings have had a little usage, Fugitt recommends that managers should go ahead with a flushing of the water lines.

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