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Your Role in NIH Water Quality

As you return to the physical workplace be aware of your role in restoring water quality.

Although the Office of Research Facilities (ORF) has taken actions to ensure that plumbing fixtures are flushed and serviced to prevent stagnant water and the formation of Legionella or other issues, there may be appliances and devices in your immediate workplace which may require additional attention from you and your co-workers.

Some suggestions include:

  • flush water in refrigerators equipped with water taps and/or ice makers.
  • flush water through coffee machines and dishwashers.
  • remove stagnant water/ice and replace filters in water-using appliances (BRITA pitchers, Keurig, coffee makers, ice machines, refrigerators with filtered water, etc.).
  • flush water in eyewashes for 15 minutes when returning to the lab, and weekly thereafter.

Residual water standing in pipes can be flushed by opening taps at all water points of use and letting the water run, typically for 5-10 minutes. Care should be taken to minimize splashing and aerosol generation during flushing. Flushing your water weekly will prevent stagnation of water.

Flushing and removing stagnant water regularly in water-using appliances not only prevents stagnation, it also helps prevent bacterial growth, mold, algae and discoloration. Your water-using appliance will likely need cleaning steps in addition to flushing (e.g., discarding ice). Consult the device manufacturer's maintenance instructions; these may be available online, in the service/repair manual or directly from the manufacturer.

Filters (if applicable) in water-using appliances also need to be replaced after a shutdown and/or non-use for over 7 days. Always follow the manufacturer's maintenance instructions in replacing the filters.

The following resources provide more information on restoring water quality after reduced operations:

EPA Maintaining or Restoring Water Quality in Buildings with Low or No Use: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-05/documents/final_maintaining_building_water_quality_5.6.20-v2.pdf.

Guidance for Reopening Buildings After Prolonged Shutdown or Reduced Operation: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/building-water-system.html.

For drinking water concerns/complaints, please contact the Office of Research Facilities at 301-435-8000 and/or submit a maintenance service request at: https://www.orf.od.nih.gov/PropertyManagement/MaintenanceServiceRequests/Pages/default.aspx.

For illness concerns suspected to be caused from the consumption of potable water at NIH, please contact Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS) Drinking Water Program Manager at 301-537-5970 or 301-496-2346.

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