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Legionnaire's DiseaseJuly 6, 2016 — One culprit behind outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease is often deferred maintenance, according to Alan Wozniak, president, Pure Air Control Services.

It is caused by Legionella bacteria that can often be found in building water systems. The disease periodically makes headlines when a large outbreak occurs, but Legionnaire’s disease is an ongoing risk for buildings.

“In tough times, the maintenance budget gets cut,” Wozniak said. Instead of maintaining equipment, organizations adopt a run-to-failure mentality. “A lot of bad things can happen when you do that.”

Wozniak has seen trees growing out of cooling towers and thick goo in air-handling units.

He advises facility managers to minimize deferred maintenance by using trained people to address maintenance proactively. “Bring in experts you can partner with,” he said.

Legionella is an environmental bacterium reported from both natural and artificial water systems (with few exceptions, in which they are reported from terrestrial or ambient air environments). Legionella can cause Legionellosis or Legionnaires’ disease, often a severe and lethal form of infection acquired mostly from contaminated water. Each year, an estimated 10,000 to 18,000 people are infected with the Legionella bacteria in the United States. Legionellosis is deadly for 1 out of 10 people afflicted with the infection. Therefore, an active water management plan (WMP) is being encouraged by ASHRAE and CMS to reduce the risks.

The new ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188-2015, “Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems,” is intended to help prevent Legionnaire’s disease. Wozniak said the standard can be an important tool for facility managers to use in addressing the risk of Legionnaire’s disease.

Pure Air Control Services, Inc. is a nationally recognized indoor environmental-quality firm that offers a full range of professional solutions.