Water System Precautions for Idle Facilities
In May 2020, Governor Pritzker announced the five-phase Restore Illinois plan to reopen the state’s economy on a regional basis, providing a region meets certain benchmarks. While a timeline has not been set and the Governor’s Updated Stay at Home Order remains in effect, many businesses are beginning to develop reopening plans. Special attention should be paid to the buildings’ water systems.
If your building or facility has been mostly vacant for several weeks or longer, the water in your internal plumbing is stale from sitting idle. Unused water that has been sitting in pipes for extended periods may appear cloudy or have an unpleasant taste or odor. Depending on the building and its plumbing, Legionella, metal leaching, and other hazards can also pose a health risk.
Commercial and institutional building water systems are not designed for prolonged periods of inactivity and should be flushed thoroughly prior to use. While this is a common practice for seasonally operated facilities such as schools and parks, it is not for the many businesses, houses of worship, social clubs, day care facilities and restaurants which have been idled during the Covid-19 crisis.
At a minimum building or facility managers should:
- Turn on every fixture and run cold water until it feels cool and fresh. Fresh water from the main will feel cooler than water that has been sitting in your building’s plumbing. It may take longer for fresh water to reach faucets in larger buildings.
- Flush every toilet as well.
- Next, run the hot water at every tap until it gets fully hot. This will get fresh water into your building’s hot water lines. For this to be effective, flush hot water only after all cold taps have been flushed.
- Check cold water supply for chlorine to indicate fresh water has entered the system. (Contact the Water Plant for testing information)
- Consider draining storage tanks like water heaters and softeners, and check for sediment buildup.
- Check aerators, filters, showerheads and other equipment for particles and clean as necessary.
- Clean ice machines, and dispose of three batches of ice after flushing the system.
- Maintain any other appliance or system with a water connection, such as fire sprinklers, drinking fountains, coffee makers.
- Replace all point-of-use filters, including the filter in refrigerators.
For more information and recommendations from authoritative sources, please visit:
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Guidance for Building Water Systems - Ensure the safety of your building water system and devices after a prolonged shutdown
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Information on Maintaining or Restoring Water Quality in Buildings with No or Low Use
- National Science Foundation (NSF): In the Time of COVID-19: Building Water Systems With Low Demand Require Care
- American Water Works Association (AWWA): Coronavirus Guidance
- The Environmental Science, Policy, and Research Institute (ESPRI): Building Water Quality and Coronavirus: Flushing Guidance for Periods of Low or No Use
- Water Research Foundation (WRF): Flushing Guidance for Premise Plumbing and Service Lines to Avoid or Address a Drinking Water Advisory
- For Plumbers - International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO): Coronavirus Resources
For information on City of Highland Park’s water quality, please visit: http://www.cityhpil.com/water-quality
If you need additional information on City’s water testing procedures, please contact Department of Public Work Water Production Division team at 847.433.4355 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
If you need information on City’s Building Permit requirement including plumbing code, please visit www.cityhpil.com under Building Division of Community Development Department or via phone at 847.432.0808.