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Health Concerns Related to High Risk Manufactured Water Systems

Even in the warmer months, when the thought of a hot shower isn’t as attractive, don’t be tempted to turn down the heat on your hot water storage units

Did you know that it is unsafe for you to keep your hot water stored at any temperature less than 60°C?  Water storage temperatures of 60°C are required by both the Australian Standards for Plumbing and Drainage and the Plumbing Code of Australia.

Keeping water storage temperatures at less than 60°C may be putting yourself and others at risk of infection with Legionella bacteria.

Legionella bacteria are widely distributed in the natural environment and have been isolated from various water sources such as hot water services. Legionella multiply at temperatures ranging from 20°C to 45°C, with maximum growth occurring between 32°C and 43°C.

Infection with Legionella pneumophila is called Legionnaires’ disease and generally infects the lungs, causing pneumonia, which is often very severe.

How can you be sure that your hot water is hot enough? The simplest way for you to check is to run your hot water and test the temperature using a thermometer.  If in doubt, contact a plumber to help you out.

Sometimes it might be necessary to lower the water temperature at sanitary outlets to temperatures less that 60°C, for example to reduce the risk of scalding for children. If this is the case, safe alternative measures can be adopted for example installing water temperature controllers such as thermostatic mixing valves or, in the case of instantaneous water heaters, thermostats that can be regulated to achieve safe water temperatures.

So play it safe all year round, and keep those temperatures on the higher side.

There are over 43 species of Legionella, of which over half have been linked to human disease. Legionella is bacteria present naturally in the environment and is the cause of Legionnaires disease. Legionnaires disease generally effects people over 50 years, immuno-compromised individuals, and people that have a pre-existing lung condition. Legionella grows in manufactured water systems, which provide optimum conditions for growth. People become infected with the bacteria by inhaling the aerosols disseminated from manufactured water systems.

The South Australian Public Health (Legionella) Regulations 2013 address cooling water systems and warm water systems to assist in the control of Legionella in the community.

The Regulations have been developed to protect public health through the proper management of cooling and warm water systems. All cooling water systems and warm water systems (exempting systems located within a private dwelling; unless the system serves more than one dwelling) must comply with the Regulations

To enquire about a water system, or to find out how to register a system, contact the Environmental Health Officer on 8633 9720.

The SA Health website can provide detailed information regarding High Risk Manufactured Water Systems and their  Registration and Compliance Inspections.