Installation teams are the lifeblood of our industry, the representatives on site of a faceless business and often the only physical evidence seen by the client of our assurance that the work we promise to do will get done. So it was with relief that the client did not overhear the dialogue between two fitters:
“These modular tanks are great – didn’t we get the sections through the loft hatch easily!”
“But how do we get the old tank out now?!”
This hopefully is not a common problem of the many teams tasked with the replacement of water tanks in the lofts, attics and roof spaces of apartment blocks, social housing units and commercial premises. Particularly one would hope, now several councils and authorities are realising there is a growing need to change ageing water tanks so launching a growing industry requiring the combined skills and expertise of both FM and Installation departments of companies such as Heightsafe Systems. Yet not all tanks are corroding and leaking through age or a lack of maintenance.
Legionnaires Disease is an age-old problem often associated with standing water. A pneumonia-like illness caused by the Legionella bacteria, Legionnaires can be fatal and is caused by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated by the bacteria. Often found in the natural environment and liable to growth in water systems including domestic hot and cold water tanks and systems, the bacteria can survive low temperatures and thrive at temperatures between 20 – 45°C.
Research has shown 37 recorded outbreaks of the disease throughout the world between 1976–2014, 14 of which occurred in Australia & New Zealand, 11 in USA and five in the UK with three of these within the last five years. Of the worldwide cases, in excess of 3,000 people were affected resulting in 200 deaths. Yet while there may be an apparent growth in the number of outbreaks recorded, the causes attributed range from Air Conditioning units, Cooling Towers and Water Tanks to a Decorative Fountain and Hot Tubs (most notably including one at the Playboy Mansion in 2011.)
In terms of the buildings where we handle the replacement of the water tanks, the risk from Legionnaires disease may increase where property is left unoccupied even for a short period of time. Water should not be left to stand in hot or cold water systems for longer than a week at a time without some flow being drawn to minimise the chances of stagnation. If possible the system should be drained and then flushed through upon recommisioning.
In respect of residential accommodation, the landlord has a responsibility to combat Legionnaires Disease and to ensure that the risk of exposure to tenants, residents and visitors by Legionella is properly assessed and controlled. The death of any tenant through contracting this disease can result in heavy fines or imprisonment for the landlord. Health and Safety legislation requires landlords to carry out risk assessments for the Legionella bacteria and thereafter maintain control measures to minimise any risk. In most rented premises the risk will be low but it is important that risk assessments are carried out and control measures introduced. Simple steps can be taken to help manage the risk from the bacteria and these should be maintained including:
- Flushing out the water system by running all outlets for at least 2 minutes where the premises have not been used e.g. before letting the property or if the property has stood empty for a time
- Setting controls so that the hot water is heated to and stored at 60°C
- The removal of any redundant pipe work
- Advising tenants to regularly clean, descale and disinfect shower heads
- Critically, avoiding debris getting into the system (e.g. making sure cold water tanks, if installed, have a tight fitting lid)
- The replacement of ageing, corroded or damaged water tanks where the exposure to risk from the bacteria is higher
At Councils from London to Edinburgh, the risk and the problem is being taken very seriously indeed, and contractors are being increasingly employed to replace water tanks where required. The typical scope of works for such a project is:
- To survey Tank Rooms within High Rise Housing Blocks and provide recommendations and solutions for replacing Cold Water Storage Tanks
- Replacement works include:
- Site survey
- Provision of design solutions
- Scheduling of works and liaison with residents regarding notifications of disruption to services
- Disposal of existing tanks (tanks are safely cut up and removed utilizing spark free cutting equipment)
- Recycling of waste materials where possible
- The supply and installation of appropriate pre-insulated cold water storage tanks to Water Regulations standards using WIAPS approved plumbers
- Alternatively, maintenance works include the:
- Cleaning and disinfecting of cold water storage tanks & associated services
- Supply & install of inline screen couplings on cold water storage tanks and calorifiers
- Supply & install of temperature gauges on domestic hot water supply & return
- Supply & install of lid vents on cold water storage tank lids
- Insulating of cold water storage tanks and pipework
- Supply & install of various pumps
- Supply & install of double check valves
- Minor access improvements including boarding and lighting
So with this in mind, why not let Heightsafe Systems handle the replacement of your water tank. To discuss this or any of our new and innovative height safety solutions, please contact us.