Many buildings—such as offices, schools, and restaurants—across Canada have been closed for a prolonged period of time in response to the COVID-19 crisis. As buildings start to reopen, stagnant water will need to be flushed to minimize health risks. CWWA has prepared guidance documents that water utilities and property owners can use prior to the reopening of their communities.

“When buildings are closed or on low occupancy for any prolonged period, water in the building becomes stagnant and can pose serious health risks,” according to the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA).

Harmful bacteria, like Legionella and Mycobacteria, can grow in stagnant water. Stagnant water can also cause disinfectants, which are used to inactivate waterborne pathogens like Legionella, to slowly react with other components of the water. This, in turn, leads to the formation of harmful disinfectant by-products that can build up over time.

As communities prepare to reopen, water utilities will need to prepare for increased flushing. CWWA has prepared a guidance document (PDF / Word File) for water utilities on steps they can take to prepare for increased flushing.

“Water utilities are responsible to get clean, safe drinking water to each property in accordance with provincial/territorial regulations,” according to CWWA. “While it can be argued our responsibility ends at the property line, property owners will look for direction and support from water professionals and the first place they will typically look is to their local water supplier.”

For this reason, CWWA has included recommendations that water utilities can use to distribute information to building owners in its guidance document (PDF / Word File).

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“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each property owner to ensure it maintains the safety of the water within their building,” according to CWWA. “Prior to reopening or fully re-occupying a building, building managers need to take steps to flush stagnant water, clean taps and fixtures and test that the water in their building is safe.”

CWWA has prepared a fact sheet (PDF / Word File) for property owners that provides general instructions for flushing and cleaning water systems. The fact sheet also directs to more detailed resources and guidance.

Contact Robert Haller, executive director of CWWA, for more information.

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