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Industry Leader Backs Plumbers Call for Legionnaire Checks

Industry Leader Backs Plumbers Call for Legionnaire Checks

General Manager of Laser Plumbing & Electrical New Zealand, Scott Carr, has backed the Master Plumbers call for the mandatory water sampling of hot water services to combat the threat of Legionnaire’s disease.

The legionella bacteria can be found in any type of water system, particularly warm stagnant water which can occur in plumbing systems, hot water tanks, water cooling towers and evaporative condensers of large air conditioning systems.

While the Ministry of Health has developed guidelines for the prevention of the disease, the Ministry for Building and Construction which is responsible for ensuring guidelines are followed, has failed to establish the controls required to ensure the guidelines are adhered to.

“Currently, a compliance schedule has been established by the Ministry for Building for air conditioning units only,” says Scott. “However, we know that the bacteria thrives in temperatures of 20 to 45 degrees.

Recommendations call for the temperature of hot water services to sit at 60 degrees but often facilities such as aged care and childcare centres will lower the temperature to decrease the risk of burns, increasing the risk of the bacteria being present.”

“I would encourage Jenny Salesa, Minister for Building and Construction to investigate the controls currently in place and update current legislation to include hot water systems in compliance schedules.”

Currently in Australia and the UK it’s mandatory to have water sampling in facilities servicing those considered at high risk of the disease including hospitals, aged care and child care. The monitoring measures levels of the bacteria, enabling measures to be taken before public health is impacted.

Laser Plumbing Christchurch East’s Chris Dick has been lobbying the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment and believes the Building Code needs to updated to reflect the Ministry of Health guidelines.

“About a third of Legionnaire’s cases are from water systems” said Chris. “Currently, the department doesn’t see Legionnaires from water systems as a big enough risk to public health and sees it as more of a public health issue than a building performance issue.”

Recent research suggests that infection rates from the disease may be three times higher than previous data reported with many cases diagnosed with pneumonia, a symptom of the disease.

“While the infections from water systems appear to be lower than those contracted through potting mix, we would like to see New Zealand standards around the prevention of Legionnaires raised to meet what is accepted as standard practise elsewhere” said Scott.


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